Whether you are caring for a child, a spouse or a parent, each will have very definite needs, which will need to be met. It is best to begin familiarizing yourself with the various forms of services that are available. Most individuals responsible for the care of another would prefer to keep them at home if they are a child or spouse, and a parent living comfortably in their own home and surroundings.

There is a broad range of care choices that permit you to keep your loved one at home, even if they are saddled with physical, mental or emotional limitations. Home care covers the range of supplying transportation to and from doctors, preparation of meals all the way to caring for those who are disabled, elderly and frail.

Assistance With Daily Living:


Companion- A personal care attendant provides assistance with meal preparation, shopping, supervision, light housekeeping and companionship. Generally speaking, they do not provide any personal care such as bathing, dressing and grooming, and no medical care is administered.

Housekeepers– can provide assistance with meal preparation, shopping and transportation. No personal or medical care is given.

Home Maintenance, Repair And Chore Services
Community volunteers perform minor home repairs inside and out. Their job chores may include raking leaves, winterizing the home, mowing lawns, installing special handrails or guards, and removing snow. There usually are fees for major repairs and cosmetic renovations.

Emergency Response Systems– Electronic monitors which can be worn by an individual or placed in the home to provide an automatic response to medical or other emergencies.

Health Care Services:

Home Health Aide or Personal Care Attendant
-Provides personal care such as bathing, dressing, grooming and feeding. This may also include light housekeeping services, the administration of medications and other light duties. Government and charities may offer these services for free or on a sliding scale or you can hire one through a health care agency.

Nursing Assistance, Occupational or Physical Therapy-Licensed personal that may be provided by insurance if the patient’s doctor prescribes their need or they can be hired on your own.

Hospice-Supportive medical and social programs for terminally ill patients, usually diagnosed with six months or less to live. Volunteers and support are provided for members of the patient?s immediate family at home.

Community Involvement:

Case Management-Care Managers

Home maintenance, housekeeping, chores and services

Telephone reassurance– Volunteers will make daily phone calls to an elderly person living alone to provide contact and checkup on their well-being. Programs may be set up to remind them to take their medications, etc.

Friendly Visitors– Volunteers from civic organizations, church, senior center, or service organization will come and spend time with the individual. They may read, play cards, bring a video to watch, take them for a walk or whatever is needed. They are their to socially connect with the individual as well as offer support and monitor their well being.

Senior Centers– The centers act as a social gathering and networking place for seniors who are able to function on an independent basis. Social, cultural and recreational activities are usually offered. These may also include day trips, matinees at the theater, communal meals, health screenings, volunteer opportunities and even legal and financial services. Generally speaking services are free or available at a low nominal fee to all participants.

Childcare Centers– Centers with professional staffing to care for your children while you are at work or caring for a loved one. There are special centers for children with special needs as well.

Adult Day Centers-Community programs offering meals and structured activities. Transportation may or may not be provided as with health services. Most programs operate only during the week. Depending on the area you are in, attendance can be full or part time and there may be a wait list. They usually provide social and health care services for those who have special needs. Hospitals, private organizations, local governments, nursing homes and often religious groups offer these types of programs.

Transportation-Some cities and communities provide special transportation for seniors and children. Volunteers may drive their own cars and assist in transporting them to doctors, treatments, supermarkets, senior centers, childcare centers, etc. Other services might be van pickups, sponsored by the City. One such example is “Access-A-Ride.” If the program is funded it may be offered free or for a small, nominal fee.

Meals– There are two types of programs available. Volunteers in programs such as “Meals on Wheels” can deliver meals. Upon delivery of the meal, the volunteer will also check on the well being of the recipient. The second form is communal or group meals for the elderly, usually served at a senior center. Recreational activities may be supplied as well. Depending on the situation the programs may be free or there may be a small nominal fee.

Legal And Consumer: Attorneys, ombudsmen, elderly abuse, child abuse

Financial Assistance: Paying bills, balancing checkbooks, submitting insurance forms, tax preparation

Medical Assistance, Sliding Fees, Subsidized Programs

Housing Options:

Rehabilitation Facilities– Facilities for short-term stays helping a patient to recover from an illness or accident where they receive treatment until they are ready to return home.

Senior Apartment Living– This type of living is usually government subsidized and adjustable accordingly to the senior’s income. They usually are conveniently located to shopping and transportation. They may also serve meals

Shared Housing-Elderly people who live together. Each has their own room and they share the common areas.

Adult Foster Care-This method of care is starting to grow in different parts of the nation. A family provides custodial care to an elderly person or more than one person in exchange for a predetermined fee.

Moving In With A Child Or Relative

Assisted Living– These are usually individual living units in senior housing situations. A kitchenette may be available; however, usually meals are served in a dining room with other members of the facility. Activities are provided throughout the day. A 24-hour staff is present. Nursing and housekeeping fees are usually provided for an additional fee.

Long-Term Care Facilities:
Nursing Homes

Hospice– Supportive medical and social programs for terminally ill patients, usually diagnosed with six months or less to live. Volunteers and support are provided for members of the patient’s immediate family at a Hospice facility.

Support for Caregivers:

Respite– Services provided to assist and relieve the caregiver from their role for a few hours to a week or more. Care may be provided at home or in a long-term care facility.

Support– Support groups, individual counseling, workshops and programs that are care related are of great importance to caregivers. There are also online support functions such as chats and message boards. All are vitally important for caregivers to connect with others who understand what they are going through, especially if the caregiver is experiencing isolation and depression.

Links corresponding to this article are:

American Self-Help Clearinghouse

Careguide.Com – database of housing, etc.

Directory Of Aging Web Site Directories

Elderweb – ElderCare Sourcebook

HealthCare Financing Administration (HCFA)

Hospice Foundation Of America

National Association of Geriatric Care Managers

National Association Of Home Care

National Meals on Wheels Foundation – 1-800-999-6262

National Respite Locator Service

NCOA Aging And Advocacy Links

NCOA Addresses Vital Aging Issues

Nursing Home Care
The Health Care Financing Administration publishes a free booklet called “How To Select A Nursing Home” – Write to HCFA Publications Dept., 7500 Security Blvd., Room N1-26-25, Baltimore, MD 21244-1850.


Senior Housing Net

State Index Aging Agencies and Programs

THE ELDERCARE LOCATOR- A way to find community services for Seniors.

The Wellspouse Foundation

To find out more about all of the services mentioned in this section and other options as well, order “Staying at Home: A guide to Long-Term Care & Housing” (D14986) from AARP Fulfillment, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049.


  • Ms. Mitchell began her full-time caregiving experience in the early eighties when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Later on she became the primary caregiver for her father, along with her mother who had become critically ill from burnout prior to her dad’s passing. In recent years, she cared for several friends with AIDS while continuing to care for her mother and actively providing support, information, referrals and resources for caregivers.

    Gail's leadership on the Internet and her success with Empowering Caregivers led her to found National Organization For Empowering Caregivers (NOFEC) INC in 2001.

    Prior to founding NOFEC, she created the iVillageHealth Chat: Empowering Caregivers, which she hosted for over 5 years. Within a month of hosting she created Empowering Caregivers: www.care-givers.com in 1999 as a resource for caregivers around the globe. Over three million visitors have frequented the website.

    She has presented at national and international care-related conferences and programs and has been a keynote speaker for many programs as well.

    Ms Mitchell has assisted thousands of caregivers online and offline in ways to empower themselves in their roles in caring for loved ones.

    For a list of clients and/or her resume, please contact info@care-givers.com

    Gail's articles have been published in many venues nationally and in Canada. Presently, she is a member of American Society on Aging and National Quality Caregivers Coalition.

    Gail has discovered that there is life after caregiving: She has become a successful ceramic artist and installation artist. She created Crystal Illumination Art to bring the transformative quality of illumination, light and color to the human experience and celebrate its ability to inspire, heal and nourish our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.