Caring for an aging parent can be a difficult responsibility. Many times, family members take on this critical role at the expense of their own financial, physical, and mental wellbeing. Connecticut homecare agency Assisted Living Services, Inc. in Cheshire and Westport, is looking after these special family caregivers by helping them enroll in a state program that pays a weekly stipend and assigns them a dedicated nurse to ensure that they’re not only providing proper support to their elderly family member, but to themselves as well.
“Although the CT Adult Family Living/Foster Caregiver Program – or simply AFL Program- was created ten years ago to help the proliferating senior population age safely in their own homes, only a fraction of Connecticut residents actually knows about it,” said Mario D’Aquila, MBA, COO of Assisted Living Services, Inc. (ALS). “The financial compensation, which can be over $500 per week depending on the complexity of care, certainly helps the family member in one respect; but our company also offers ongoing training, education and support from our staff, which is an important element of success in this program.”
D'Aquila notes that although ALS provides solely nonmedical care, it is required by its contract with the Department of Social Services (DSS) to utilize a licensed nurse to visit each foster caregiver and senior client regularly to provide oversight of the care being provided and ensure that caregivers receive the support they need.
“The goal is to keep people out of nursing homes and in the homes that they love”, according to D’Aquila. “This non-medical care is primarily assisting with activities of daily living; such as personal care, safe transfers, providing nutritious meals, and monitoring for safety. The program services families across all corners of the state with regular in-person visits, frequent phone and email contact, as well as directing them to resources that help them remain empowered, energized and enthusiastic about their new positions as family caregivers.”
One such dedicated nurse that serves this role is Olfa Santana, RN from East Haven, who manages a total of 50 families, conducting visits every six weeks.
“I also work within the hospital setting and most definitely can see firsthand the difference when an elderly client is taken care of by a family member in the comforts of their own house,” said Santana. “Everyone is happier and homecare is much more cost-effective than an in-patient care facility. It’s truly a win-win situation!”
In fact, family caregiver Linda Frost in New Haven has been enrolled in the AFL Program for four years, taking care of her 87-year-old mother Rosie Elison, and even though she previously worked as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), admits that her relationship with Santana has made the caregiving experience extra fulfilling and rewarding.
“Olfa always shows such genuine concern and care for my mother and it gives me peace of mind knowing that I always have a skilled and wise resource available to me day or night,” said Frost.
LPN Maria White of New Britain is also a staff member who manages 42 AFL Program families across Hartford and Litchfield Counties. Besides performing safety and wellness checks for the elderly client, White makes it a priority to ensure the overall well-being of the designated caregiver.
“Nothing quite prepares you for the stress of becoming a caregiver for a family member, which is a 24/7 job,” said White. “One of the main goals of my visit is to provide physical and emotional support for the family member whether that means encouraging them to get a home health aide for a much-needed break, exploring an external passion that they love, and even directing them to a professional therapist if they need additional counseling. All of these support systems are benefits of the AFL Program to which they’re entitled.”
Similarly, Karen King, RN, from Wallingford oversees 30 participating families in the Waterbury and Naugatuck Valley region and loves building trusted relationships as the liaison between the client and the caregiver.
“Nursing has always been about mind, body and spirit, so I take a holistic approach in evaluating both the client and caregiver during my visits,” explains King. “This might mean that I recommend Caregiver Support Groups, secure beds with handrails or explore technology-assisted devices to make their jobs easier.”
Other self-care strategies for family foster caregivers may include:
- Engaging in regular activities that you enjoy or finding a new interest.
- Giving yourself permission to take short breaks, getting out of the house throughout the day, even for 10 minutes, visiting with friends.
- Physically taking care of yourself by not skipping your own doctor’s appointments, exercising, eating well and getting proper sleep.
- Getting up 15 minutes earlier and using the time just for you: journaling mediating or stretching.
- Watching for signs of depression and not delaying getting professional help.
- Giving yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs ever!
“The #1 wish of most senior citizens is that they want to remain in their own homes throughout the aging process for as long as possible surrounded by their loved ones,” concludes D’Aquila, “As a credentialed provider of the AFL program, we’re helping to make this a reality in Connecticut families and to ensure a life-changing experience for all parties involved with proper compensation and a plethora of tools.”
About Assisted Living Services, Inc.
Since 1996, award-winning home care agency Assisted Living Services, Inc. in Cheshire and Westport has provided quality care to residents across Connecticut with more than 700 employees and caregivers. ALS was ranked on the 2020 Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies and recognized by Home Care Pulse® as a “Best of Home Care Leader In Excellence”, a designation given to the best home care providers in the nation. Learn more by visiting www.assistedlivingct.com or calling For specific information about the Adult Family Living/Foster Caregiver Program, please call 203.774.5651.
About the Adult Family Living/Foster Caregiver Program
The AFL program is part of the Department of Social Services’ Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders (CHCPE). In order to qualify, applicants must be a Connecticut resident, 65 years of age or older, at risk of nursing home placement, meaning, the applicant needs assistance with critical personal care such as bathing, dressing, eating, taking medications, toileting or transferring, as well as meet the program’s financial eligibility criteria. For a full listing of eligibility requirements, or to apply for an assessment, visit the Connecticut Department of Social Services website at https://portal.ct.gov/DSS/Health-And-Home-Care/Connecticut-Home-Care-Program-for-Elders/Connecticut-Home-Care-Program-for-Elders-CHCPE .
PHOTO: Olfa Santana, RN, is one of the many visiting nurses employed by Assisted Living Services to help train family foster caregivers and conduct wellness checks with elderly clients like Doris DiBuccio of North Branford, who are part of the Connecticut State Adult Family Living/Foster Caregiver Program offered through the Department of Social Services.
Photo Credit: Assisted Living Services, Inc.