An older woman being hugged by a younger woman.
Connecticut homecare company trains family members to become caregivers for elderly loved ones
by Meg Herndon

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 well-being.  

Connecticut homecare agency Assisted Living Services, Inc. is looking after these 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 10 years ago to help the proliferating senior population age safely in their own homes, only a fraction of Connecticut residents actually know about it,” said Mario D’Aquila, 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 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 caregivers receive the support they need.

“The goal is to keep people out of nursing homes and in the homes that they love,” said D’Aquila. “This nonmedical 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 dedicated nurse that serves this role is Olfa Santana, 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.”

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.”

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. This could include journaling, mediating or stretching.
  • Watching for signs of depression and not delaying getting professional help.

“The No. 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,” said 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.”

Meg Herndon is the managing editor of Homecare Media.