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Posted: December 10, 2007

Practical Caregiving

Where is Care for the Caregiver in This Political Season?

I live in Iowa. As I’m writing this column, I’m sitting by the warmth of my fireplace and looking at the beautiful snow outside. This is the first time I’ve had a fireplace. I love it, especially when I can look at the snow-covered landscape outside. That’s one benefit of living in this Midwest state.

Another benefit of living in Iowa is the political caucus. In fact, that’s all we are hearing right now (in unbiased alphabetical order) Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Giuliani, Gravel, Huckabee, Hunter,  Keyes, Kucinich, McCain, Obama, Paul, Richardson, Romney, Tancredo, Thompson. Eight Democrats and nine Republicans.

I am a registered independent, so I’m listening to everyone give their side as well as watch the mistakes they all make. All say they want health care reform. All say they want to help the elderly. All say they want to help the poor. And all want to end the war. They all want to do good things, and they all have a plan of some sort. Some of the plans are more detailed than others, but they all take the position that they want to do something good about many things.

But here’s my real itch: I haven’t heard one person say they want to help the family caregiver, although someone may have. What a new concept -- help for the family caregiver. Does any presidential aspirant want to help the family caregiver?

There are millions of non-paid family caregivers in the United States, and all need some sort of help. Some need money. Some need medical guidance. Some need encouragement. All need a break. No matter what the problem, everyone needs some kind of help. This is an area that has been neglected for many years, and now there are millions of family caregivers in the United States. And, they all need some sort of help.

As a caregiver, what kind of help do you need? Do you even know?

I realize you thought you could tackle anything when you first started into the family caregiving role (I thought that, too.) And I can guarantee that by now you are questioning that idea (I did.) You wonder if you can do it. You wonder if it will ever end. You wonder how you will pay the bills a year from now, or even now. I would say that about a third of my emails come from people asking how to pay the bills and how to get paid taking care of their loved one.

The only answer I can give them is below. I truly hope the next President of the United States will become aware of the plight of the family caregiver and do more to help us all. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. On Monday, December 17, I plan to send an email to the candidates asking them to help the family caregiver. I’ll let you know what I learn.


For now, here is the information I have for you about financial help. Please let me know if you use it and what you find out:

Taking care of someone is very rewarding, but expensive. Whenever you call anyone, always ask if they know of any other possible source you might want to check into. One person I know was able to get free accounting assistance for their loved one because they simply asked that question. Remember: talking with one person can lead to another who can help!

Call your local Administration on Aging (AoA) and ask about the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). This is a federal program but it is administered by individual states.

The state determines how it is administered, and the guidelines vary from state to state. Those eligible include family caregivers of older adults (age 60+), grandparents (age 60+) and relatives who are caregivers (age 60+) of children not more than 18 years old. In other words, while you need to talk to the office in your state to find out what services are available to you, these age brackets and duty descriptions should be helpful to you. Be sure to ask for the family caregiver specialist because not everyone understands the program.

To find the offices in your state, call toll-free 1-800-677-1116, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern. If you want to read more about this program, go to: This URL will link you to the Older American Act Official Compilation at

Some states offer low interest rate loans for home modification to accommodate the limitations of your loved ones. They will probably know where to refer you, so ask them about that. You may have to make a few phone calls to get to the right person, but you won't get the help if you don't make the calls.

Also, run your loved one's information through the following website. It is a free site set up by the government, and you may find something your elderly qualifies for that they don't know about. You don't identify them, either. The website address is: Check your information also.

Check out the NeedyMeds website. NeedyMeds is the place to learn about patient assistance programs and other programs designed to help those who can't afford their medicines. NeedyMeds is not a program or source of medicines; it's an information source.







© 2007 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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