Her forgetfulness became more than a “senior moment” when neighbors brought mom home because she couldn’t remember where she lived.

We quietly had begun to realize that things were not the same, but we hadn’t wanted to face what happens when a loved one is no longer the strong, vibrant person they once were.

We often offered excuses such as, “She was not feeling well that day,” or some such other reason for her difficulties. But, eventually the day came when we new we had to find more specific answers. The issues became to numerous and to critical to ignore. That’s when we decided someone needed to be with her 24/7.

Getting to the point of deciding a loved one needs full-time care is not easy. It’s also not easy to say you are going to hire a total stranger to live with and care for someone you love.

But, the process of finding someone you can trust with every aspect of your loved one’s life – not to mention a lot of your own – can be made easier with the help of other family members and friends. Hopefully this primer will lend a hand.

Caring for CaregiversCredit: madmikesamerica.com

Millions of Caregivers Provide Important Services

By some estimates there are more than 65 million caregivers who are an essential part of a patient's health care team in the United States alone. They typically provide emotional strength and support and more importantly for some help a patient with their daily needs, such as filling prescriptions or helping schedule doctors' appointments. It is also estimated that caregivers provide $350 billion worth of unpaid services each year and much more in paid services.

The important role caregiver’s play has even given rise to an annual recognition of their services. In the U.S. November has been designated as National Caregiver Month, complete with a proclamation by President Barack Obama.

“Across our country, millions of family members, neighbors, and friends provide care and support for their loved ones during times of need,” said the president. “During National Family Caregivers Month, we pay tribute to the individuals throughout America who ensure the health and well-being of their relatives and loved ones.”

So, if you are in need of a caregiver where do you start to find one that is trustworthy, reliable, experienced and provides that certain feeling of companionship that will mean a great deal for you and your loved one. There is no magic formula – sometimes it comes down to a gut feeling. Here are some tips.

1. National organizations that can help.

There are a number of national organizations that offer a great deal of information and resources to enable you to find quality caregivers.

The National Family Caregivers Association is one of the largest national organizations devoted to the education, support, and empowerment for the millions of people who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability or the frailties of old age. While the organization primarily serves caregivers (such as family members), it also has a great deal of information for those seeking to retain the services of a caregiver.

Strength for Caring is also a web site directed primarily at caregivers. It is sponsored by Johnson and Johnson. However, the site also provides a number of resources for those seeking assistance for their loved ones. A resource section offers articles and links to information about subjects such as assisted living, adult day care, financial planning, legal issues and more. It also has links to other websites, brochures and books.

2. Government

There are a number of federal, state and local services available for those seeking assistance and caregiver information.

One of the best places to start is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Eldercare Locator. It’s a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging and connects you to services for older adults and their families. There’s also a toll free number to call for assistance (1-800-677-1116). One of the best things about the site is the ability to find specific help whether it’s finding a caregiver, health insurance or other areas simply by entering your zip code or city/state location. That will give you information in your state and/or city that can be of use. The Eldercare web page also has many links to other programs that offer assistance so it is a really great resource and one of the first places you should start you search.

caregiverCredit: aging.maryland.gov

3. Non-Profit organizations

A large number of non-profit organizations provide no-cost information that can be of help. The American Red Cross and the Alzheimer’s Association are two examples. At the Alzheimer’s site for example, they have a specific web site dealing just with caregivers, including an online tool that can help you when it comes time to interview caregiver candidates.

Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter has focused on caregivers to the extent that she established the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving (RCI) in 1987 on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia. The institute establishes local, state and national partnerships committed to building quality long-term, home and community- based services. But, it also has a great many resources and links that provide help and information.

Another national organization is the National Alliance for Caregiving. It’s a very comprehensive organization and its website is chock full of research, resources, and lots of other useful information.

4. For Profit Organizations

As we searched for assistance for mom we found a number of local, for-profit companies that were basically employment agencies for professional caregivers. The sites recruit professional caregivers and for a monthly fee you are able to hire someone that you feel meets your needs. The cost for such agencies is usually higher than the price you would pay for hiring someone directly. But, finding someone who isn’t connected to an agency might be difficult to find.

5. Talk To Friends, Neighbors and Other Locals

One of the most important things to learn when it comes time to consider getting help for a loved one is that you are not alone in the process – even though it often feels like it. Others in your neighborhood or community have gone through the experience or perhaps are now facing the same issues as you. If someone you know already has a caregiver they might know someone else who is looking for a caregiver position.

In the end that is how we found the caregiver we hired. A friend suggested we talk to their caregiver who in turn was able to put us in contact with the person we eventually hired.

Our caregiver turned out to be the perfect person for our needs. Her devotion, skill and help were just what we needed. We were pleased to welcome her into our family – and that is exactly what she became, a member of the family. She offered not only direct assistance, but was able to help us balance our own needs as we took care of our own family and personal responsibilities.

As we look back on that time, we find a sense of peace in that our search for a caregiver turned out so well, and that the person we chose gave mom a degree of normalcy and comfort that made all of our lives so much easier.

With these tips and resources, we hope you are able to do the same.