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News Brief

Nov. 28, 2023 |  By: Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

NE Area Agencies on Aging support caregivers


By Deborah Van Fleet - Public News Service

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and many of the 200,000 Nebraskans who help care for loved ones with a health issue or disability could use help.

Caregiving can take its toll. In one survey, almost three-fourths of caregivers said they were emotionally stressed, and over half reported financial strain.

Mike Osberg is coordinator of the Caregiver Support Program at the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging, which provides respite, or relief, for caregivers. He said the person being cared for must be age 60 or older, unless they have a diagnosis of early dementia. And they must require help with at least two activities of daily living.

"That includes things like being able to take a bath or shower by themselves, dressing themselves, being able to manually feed themselves," Osberg outlined. "Then, do they have problems with walking and using the bathroom?"

Osberg pointed out the caregiver is actually the client and must be at least 18 years old. They can receive up to six hours a week of relief from an in-home respite provider, or they can have their loved one attend an adult day program for five full days per month.

The Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging serves Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy and Washington counties. Each of Nebraska's eight Area Agencies on Aging provide support for caregivers, although the services may vary.

Each month, they send the caregiver a "contribution request" to cover a suggested percentage of respite expenses. Osberg noted the amount is based on the care receiver's monthly income, or a couple's combined income, if the spouse is the caregiver.

"A lot of folks, their income is low, so we may only ask for them to consider 10% of what the total cost was for the month -- or 20%, or 30% or on up -- but it's strictly voluntary," Osberg emphasized.

He added no one is denied services based on income or inability to pay.

Those who choose an in-home respite provider can schedule how they use the six hours per week, and Osberg stressed the adult day program can benefit the care receiver as well as the caregiver.

"The caregiver gets a bigger chunk of time," Osberg observed. "But also, the care receiver gets to participate in activities, is going to probably eat their noon lunch and snacks there, participate maybe even in a little road trip, things like that."

He said the participating caregiving agencies are all bonded and insured, and conduct background checks on their employees.