Elder Life Planning for Faith Based Communities is an ecumenical, nationwide program that dioceses, congregations and church organizations of all faiths can offer.
Communities of faith are in excellent positions to help families plan for the care of their older members. Many devoted members of their congregations are more likely to rely on their own faith and on advice from their clergy in addressing family problems than they are to rely on publicly funded social services or other community agencies.
Elder Life Planning for Faith Based Communities uses an ecumenical approach to improve the well-being of older persons, reducing the often stress related complications that family caregivers must confront, including the increasingly complex and expensive system of eldercare services in the U.S.
For more information about offering Elder Care Services for Faith Based Communities to your community contact us at 1-800-375-0595
Communities of faith are in an excellent position to help families plan for the care of an aging loved one. Church members are more likely to rely on their own faith and pastoral care from their clergy than to rely on publicly funded social services or other community agencies. This has been cited in “Parent Care and Religion: A Faith Based Intervention Model for Caregiving Readiness of Congregational Members.”
Millions of Americans at midlife find themselves in caregiving roles that can last for many years.
The personal and financial events that arise in eldercare are typically the most dramatic event than any other event of a person or family’s life. Just one year of long term care can exceed the cost of 2-3 years of college tuition. Yet, we know that most people plan for college much more than they plan for long term care.
Typically, faith communities are ill-equipped and unprepared to guide and support family caregivers and older adults. Even conscientious clergy or church workers or outreach ministry leaders have not been adequately trained to deal with the range of issues that can affect an older person or family caregiver.
Despite the misconception that American families don't take care of their elders the way they used to in previous generations, consider the following:
• There are now more than 25 million caregivers in the U.S.
• Over 60% of these caregivers have been providing care for five plus years
• More than 80% of caregiving is done at home
• Forty-seven percent of caregivers are employed
Yet, research indicates that most churches, synagogues, mosques, and other communities of faith in the United States do not provide practical parent care guidance to adult children or give the needed and appropriate pastoral care to an aging adult.
Although numerous books, journal articles, and Internet sites provide information to individuals faced with family caregiving responsibilities, many families or individuals either do not use this information, or find that they need the personal guidance of experienced eldercare professionals.
Information and resources can be overwhelming in a caregiver crisis and the caregiver simply cannot absorb the information or implement any recommendations. Professional guidance and support is needed to help families understand the extremely complicated American service delivery system for seniors.
This highly complex system is confusing for families to navigate. How does one pay for care? How can care be provided for a family with limited resources, or adult children who live away from an aging relative? The emphasis must be on pro-active care planning before the crisis erupts.
For example, one aspect of caregiver “preparedness” is the parent care planning process. If effectively presented, this provides adult children with a way to engage parents. The process elicits the parents’ wishes and desires about medical, legal, environmental, and emotional preferences before the insidious and/or rapid onset of diseases and disabilities that often render parents unable to represent themselves.
Here again, clergy and other pastoral professionals are in a unique position to reinforce the importance of pro-active parent care preparation. Like ministers who have been on the forefront of advocacy for pre-marital counseling, religious leaders can employ their moral authority and utilize religious teachings to underscore the need and methods for families to prepare for the normal, developmental responsibility of parent care or the care of an aging loved one.
Religious leaders need adequate training and access to proven resources and methods in order to develop and promote exemplary programs that address the issues that eldercaregivers and seniors face.
It’s an emotionally wrenching decision: having to put a parent, spouse or loved one in a nursing home.
“The biggest thing for a lot of people is the feeling of guilt,” said Ann Henry, chief operating officer for the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. “You want to be able to take your loved one and care for them and oftentimes you just can’t.”
Because it’s such an important decision, making sure you find the right facility can seem like a daunting task. To aid you in your decision, we talked with Henry and experts from the state Department of Health and the state Department of Public Welfare.
Determine what type of care is needed. Contact your local agency on aging and have them help assess how much care should be provided. Personal care and assisted living facilities, for example, are designed for individuals who can do certain things on their own — bathing, dressing, etc., while nursing homes are for those who require assistance in virtually all aspects of day-to-day living, though they also tend to provide rehabilitation services.
Talk to friends, family and acquaintances. Many of them probably have been in similar situations and might have advice and suggestions.
Make an unannounced visit. While you should definitely take a planned tour of the facility, you should also stop by for a nonscheduled visit, especially if it’s during mealtime or another busy period. This will give you a chance to see whether what you observed during your scheduled tour was an exception to the norm or not.
Trust your senses. Watch the way staff interact with residents and visitors. Look to see if the residents seem happy and pleased.
Consider the individual. You want to find a place that caters to your loved one’s needs, interests and personality.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
Location — Is the facility close enough to friends and family that they can visit? This is especially important for elderly family members who might not be able to drive long distances.
Appearance — What’s your first impression upon entering the facility? Is it attractive and well-lit? How does it smell? Is it clean and hazard-free?
Staff — How do the staff interact with residents and visitors? Do they seem happy in their work? Are they courteous and respectful? Do they know residents by name? Is there someone available to handle questions or complaints? Is there sufficient staff on the weekends and in the evenings?
Many communities have formed either Interfaith Caregiver or Faith in Action Programs where volunteers from faith-based communities are matched with caregivers to provide them with some relief.
•In-home respite care: Generally speaking, in-home respite care involves the following four types of services for the more impaired older person:
1.Companion services to help the family caregiver supervise, entertain, or just visit with the senior when he or she is lonely and wants company.
2.Homemaker services to assist with housekeeping chores, preparing meals, or shopping.
3.Personal care services to help the aged individual bathe, get dressed, go to the bathroom, and/or exercise.
4.Skilled care services to assist the family caregiver in tending to the senior’s medical needs, such as when administering medications.
How Do You Pay for Respite?
The cost of respite care varies with the type of agency and the services needed, but federal and/or state programs may help to pay for it. Long term care insurance policies may cover some of the cost of respite care. Your local AAA will have more information on whether financial assistance is available, depending on your situation and where you live.
The following case study illustrates one situation in which a family caregiver could benefit greatly from arranging for basic respite care services to help a loved one recuperate at home after a hospital stay:
Mr. M is 83 years old and lives with his daughter Kathy and her family out in the country. Two weeks ago, Mr. M fell down the stairs in front of the house and suffered a broken hip. He was admitted to the local hospital and had an operation to repair the fracture, and then was sent home to recover from his injuries.
Although Kathy is happy to do what she can to assist her father in getting better, she has a part-time job and two children who need her support as well. There just are not enough hours in the day for her to look after everyone else, do her paid work, and also keep from getting stressed out and sick herself.
To solve the problem, Kathy called her AAA and then contacted a respite care program that the AAA staff recommended. After talking with Kathy, the respite care agency began sending over a trained caregiver to her house three days a week. The respite care provider makes sure that Mr. M eats regularly and is as comfortable as possible during the afternoons when Kathy has to work or attend to her children.
Can the National Family Caregiver Support Program Offer Respite?
The enactment of the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2000 (Public Law 106-501) established an important program, the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). Funds have been allocated to states to work in partnership with area agencies on aging and local and community service providers to put into place multi-faceted systems of support for family caregivers.
A specific component of these systems is respite. That could include, for example, respite care provided in a home, an adult day-care program or over a weekend in a nursing home or an assisted living facility. For more information on the NFCSP visit the Administration on Aging website at http://aoa.gov/AoARoot/AoA_Programs/HCLTC/Caregiver/index.aspx.
How Can I Ensure that Respite Care is Quality Care?
When evaluating a respite care program, family members should check to see if it is licensed by the state where they live (where required) and if the caregivers have the qualifications necessary for the job. They can ask respite care program managers the following questions to assess their credentials:
•Are families limited to a certain number of hours for services needed?
•Can the provider take care of more than one person at a time?
•Can family members meet and interview the people who will be providing the respite care?
•Does the program provide transportation for the caregiver/senior?