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Caregiving may be one of the most important roles you take on in life. You may have become a caregiver suddenly or perhaps your role has evolved over time. You may be serving in this role for a family member or perhaps a friend. No matter where you are in the continuum of your particular caregiving role, access to helpful information can make the process easier.

As many organizations offer different types of support and services, it can be a challenge to sort out the specific type of help best suited to your needs. Last year, AARP Maine developed a state-specific resource guide with you, the caregiver, in mind to help you find the services and supports you might need. Full of contact information for local, county and statewide resources, we hope this resource guide can help you get the assistance you and your loved one need. Send us a note at me@aarp.org and we’ll mail you a copy. You can also visit the AARP Caregiver Resource Center at www.aarp.org/caregiving for more useful and carefully vetted information.

Another wonderful resource available to caregivers in Maine is the system of Medical Loan Closets. There are approximately 15 Loan Closets in Maine, all offering free medical equipment to the community. If this sounds too good to be true, go to www.211maine.org, search for “loan closet” and see if there is one in your area. If so, you may find that the equipment or the supplies you need for your loved one—the walker, cane, wheelchair, shower seat, adult diapers etc.—are just a phone call away and absolutely free. The Loan Closets are typically run by volunteers through support of the town, and you can borrow items just as you would a book from the library. When you no longer need an item, you return it for another patron to use.

Locating free equipment like this can be helpful for the short-term as well. Frequent borrowers include people recovering from surgery or families who have an older relative visiting for the weekend. Access to a Loan Closet can alleviate the stress of purchasing expensive medical equipment and can ease some of the strain of caregiving for the whole family.

As part of AARP’s commitment to Maine caregivers, we are working with policymakers from both sides of the aisle on an important piece of legislation. The Maine Caregiver Tax Credit would provide some relief to income-eligible working family caregivers by covering up to $2,500 for qualified expenses. Maine is home to more than 178,000 family caregivers, so we know that we represent many individuals and their families when we lobby for such supports in Augusta.

If you are a family caregiver, you are not alone. Let’s work together to better connect with and learn from one another. By sharing resources, we can make a difference for each other and for family caregivers across the state.

Jane Margesson is the communications director for AARP Maine.

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