Question: My husband has been disabled for six years—since the age of 43. I work 20 hours a week and have been able to keep our home. He is declining and when I work he is alone for several hours at a time. His insurance will not cover a companion and I cannot afford to pay someone. Family and friends have helped as much as they can. His doctors feel we should live in assisted housing; however, I cannot afford that and the average age is 80! I don't know what to do!
Dr. Amy: I encourage you to think about formal help from government and other organizations, and informal help. If you can manage it, you will benefit greatly from a consultation with a geriatric care manager. In addition to their knowledge of health , psychology, and human development, they have an excellent understanding of public and private resources—as well as funding sources. Sooner or later, your husband will need more care, so it's a good idea to start planning now, both for your immediate needs and for when things change. A care manager can help with both. Here is a link to more information about geriatric care managers.
There are several government programs that may be able to provide you with assistance. The best thing to do is to call or go to your nearest department of social services (the adult services unit) and get an application. The people there will be able to give you information specific to your area, help you fill in the form, and tell you about what help might be available for your husband. I am not sure about the nature of your husband's disability, but organizations like the National Stroke Association (stroke.org) and the American Heart Association (strokeassociation.org) both have information and suggestions for caregivers and where you can get support. I also encourage you to think of who in your personal network might be able to help. You mention that friends and family are doing all they can. Can you extend your network? Many hands make for light work, as the saying goes. If several people would be willing to make one short visit every couple of weeks, this could make a big difference. Last but not least, if you are a member of a faith community, the leader will be able to make suggestions about local resources.
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