People who are tending to the needs of their parents, spouses, siblings or anyone else in their lives need a little break themselves sometimes.
Many of these people – most of them baby boomers – still are working for a living, after all. Yet they’re visiting nursing homes, doing errands or even caring for loved ones in their homes. It can be a mixed-up world. Where can they turn to?
For one, if the person on the receiving end of the care has long-term care insurance, that eases the financial burden. And for convenience sake, if the person doing the caregiving can perhaps leave his or her parent off to an adult day care center on the way to work, that can be a big help, as well.
Michael Allen, president and founder of Blue Goose Insurance of Portland, said that long-term care and day care can go hand-in-hand.
“Some long-term care policies have respite care included,” Allen said. “There is day care to give the kids a break. If not, children need to find the money sometimes. It’s a logistical challenge.”
Most people, Allen said, wait too long to get long-term care insurance at a reasonable price.
“The challenge is that most people who call me are 60 or over, and they don’t think they can afford it,” he said.
“It’s like, ‘Do I send my kids to college or do I invest in a long-term care policy?’ You’ve got the sandwich generation – children of parents who didn’t have long-term care services taken care of. It’s stressful. Children at some point can’t do it. It’s a huge problem.”
Long-term care insurance also can work to preserve the independence of the person on the receiving end of the care, Allen said.
“They get to make the decision about what facility they want to go to,” he said. “If someone is staying at home and part of the insurance is for home care, that can be a respite period. Long-term care helps the children of the parents.”
Allen said that his 84-year-old mother lives in a retirement home.
“When she gets to the point where she needs extra assistance, she’s not going to be dependent on us,” he said. “That takes away a financial burden from the children. It takes an unbelievable amount of heat off the children. There comes a point when children aren’t qualified to take care of their parents. Then what do you do?”
Allen said he knows of adult day care that can accommodate people anywhere from a couple of hours up to eight hours, and from $20 to $70 a day.
Larry Gross, executive director of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, said that “adult day service,” as it’s known now, most often serves people who have dementia. Adult day services normally are open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and give people a social circle to relate to, Gross said.
“People with dementia get isolated,” Gross said. “You kind of see your social network implode. And it gives the caregivers a chance to recharge their batteries, and maintain their own social circles.”
The Agency on Aging runs Truslow Adult Day Center of Saco, which offers organized daily activities, transportation, meals and professional supervision. It is licensed by the state, and is a contracted provider for MaineCare and Elder Independence of Maine. Many veterans qualify for a Veterans Administration benefit that pays for adult day services.
The Agency on Aging will replace Truslow with a new adult day service in Biddeford, for which construction has begun. The agency also is opening the Stewart Center in Falmouth this summer.
The city of Portland, meanwhile, operates a program at the Barron Center. Still, you don’t run across adult day service in many communities.
“It’s not a very widespread service, partly because it’s so expensive to run,” Gross said. “The profit margin is too small for private companies.”
For people doing private pay, the fee at Truslow Center is $14 an hour. It will be $17 an hour at The Stewart Center.
Gross said that while the majority of people caring for others are doing so for their parents, he sees many spouses becoming caregivers. Either way, he said, satisfaction scores are “off the charts.”
“Some say, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing to dad, but when he comes home the lights are on.’ It’s sort of an antidote for depression.”