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   Free Caregiver Support Programs

Many of the children of older Americans are exhausted with their caregiving chores. Limited sleep, juggling time with their own families, traveling from one house to's overwhelming. There's help, however, if they know where to look. Here's one very valuable resource.

Families -- not social service agencies, nursing homes, or government programs - provide the majority of long-term care (LTC) for older persons in the United States. More than 22.4 million informal caregivers provide unpaid help to older persons who live in the community and have various limitations.

These caregivers include spouses, adult children and other relatives and friends. The degree of caregiver involvement has remained fairly constant for more than a decade, bearing witness to the remarkable resilience of the American family in taking care of its own. This is despite increased geographic separation, greater numbers of women in the workforce, and other changes in family life. Thus, family caregiving has been a blessing in many respects. It has been a budget saver to governments faced with the challenge of covering the health and long-term care expenses of persons who are ill and have chronic disabilities. The economic value of our nation's family and informal caregivers has been estimated at $257 billion annually.

The enactment of the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2000 established an important new program called the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). The program calls for all states, working in partnership with area agencies on aging and local community-service providers, to have five basic services for family caregivers. These services include:

-Information to caregivers about available services; 
-Assistance to caregivers in gaining access to services; 
-Individual counseling, organization of support groups, and training to assist the caregivers in making decisions and solving problems relating to their caregiving roles; 
-Respite care to enable caregivers to be temporarily relieved from their caregiving responsibilities; 
-Supplemental services, on a limited basis, to complement the care provided by caregivers. 

Currently funded at $155,200,000, this program has served more than 275,000 caregivers nationwide. Efforts regarding NFCSP have resulted in new partnerships, improved access to services, outreach to special populations, and the provision of services to respond to the unique needs of families.

-Family caregivers of older adults are targeted as Eligible Populations for the NFCSP program

Who to Contact for Help 
Older persons and caregivers can call the Elder Care Locator toll-free at 1-800-677-1116 or visit 

About the Author

Richard D. Hughes is a graduate of Indiana University and the University of Denver College of Law. He has hosted scores of seminars, workshops and panel discussions on a variety of topics including probate avoidance, tax savings, disability issues, asset protection strategies, Medicaid law and trust planning.