Services and Support to Help the Family Caregiver

Services to Help the Family Caregiver

Families, not social service agencies, nursing homes, or government programs, are the mainstay underpinning long-term care (LTC) for older persons in the United States. More than 22.4 million persons are informal caregivers-providing unpaid help to older persons who live in the community and have at least one limitation on their activities of daily living. These caregivers include spouses, adult children, and other relatives and friends. The degree of caregiver involvement has remained fairly constant for more than a decade, bearing witness to the remarkable resilience of the American family in taking care of its older persons. This is despite increased geographic separation, greater numbers of women in the workforce, and other changes in family life. Thus, family caregiving has been a blessing in many respects. It has been a budget-saver to governments faced annually with the challenge of covering the health and long-term care expenses of persons who are ill and have chronic disabilities. The economic value of our nation’s family and informal caregivers has been estimated at $257 billion annually.

The National Family Caregiver Support Program

The enactment of the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2000 established an important new program, the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). The program calls for all states, working in partnership with area agencies on aging and local community-service providers, to have five basic services for family caregivers.

These services include:

• Information to caregivers about available services;

• Assistance to caregivers in gaining access to services;

• Individual counseling, organization of support groups, and caregiver training to caregivers to assist the caregivers in making decisions and solving problems relating to their caregiving roles;

• Respite care to enable caregivers to be temporarily relieved from their caregiving responsibilities; and

• Supplemental services, on a limited basis, to complement the care provided by caregivers. Currently funded at $155.2 million, this program has served more than 275 thousand caregivers nationwide. Efforts regarding NFCSP have resulted in new partnerships, improved access to services, outreach to special populations, and provision of services to respond to the unique needs of families.

Eligible Populations

• Family caregivers of older adults

• Grandparents and relative caregivers, age 60 years or older, of children no older than age 18 (including grandparents who are sole caregivers of grandchildren and those individuals who are affected by mental retardation or who have developmental disabilities)

Family Caregiving Resources

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging (AoA),

Who to Contact for Help

AoA supports a nationwide, toll-free information and assistance directory and the Eldercare Locator, which can connect older persons and their caregivers with the National Aging Services Network. Older persons and caregivers can call the Eldercare Locator toll-free at 1-800-677-1116 or visit


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