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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published August 22 2010

Bursack: Young caregiver needs help

Dear Carol: My wife’s dad suffers from kidney failure, diabetes and has had two strokes. She is just 29 years old and is his legal guardian. She feels very much stuck in her life, and I worry that this will have long-term effects on her, as stress can certainly make people sick. There is not sufficient money to cover the cost of care for assisted living or a nursing home, and I think he really needs that. We live in Minnesota. Where does she turn? –Frank

Dear Frank: I’d suggest that first your wife go onto Minnesota’s website devoted to aging at www.mnaging.org. (For readers outside of Minnesota who have similar issues, go to your state’s website and type “aging” in the search box. That should get you to your local services). By going to this site, Frank, she’ll find contact information plus support options. They also have their version of the Family Caregiver Support Program, which can be valuable.

She can’t do this all alone. Her own health is sure to suffer, as will your relationship. Please try to help her understand that by getting help, she is not giving up her role of caregiver. She must learn to understand that.

Assisted living is nearly always private pay, however, her dad sounds like he needs more care than assisted living can give. Any money her dad has will have to go to pay for his care in a nursing home. Once his money runs out, he would go on Medicaid. That is called spending down assets. Once his money is nearly gone, Medicaid pays to care for him. If he is a veteran, she may want to check with the Veterans Administration, as well.

A wonderful new effort in Minnesota to help seniors and caregivers find help is www.mnseniorsonline.com. This site is not a government site. It’s paid for by ads. However, it offers a wealth of information that many will find interesting. There are phone numbers on the site – yes, phone numbers – for the Area Agency on Aging, Minnesota State Council on Disability, Minnesota State Retirement System, National Institute on Aging, and other agencies and services. I applaud the people who gathered this information for seniors and caregivers.

Good luck to you both. You sound like a supportive guy, and she is obviously a gem. It’s time for her to enjoy a life of her own, even while she cares for her dad. He wouldn’t want to think he could be endangering her health and happiness.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.