You’ve Just Learned Mom Needs Help. What Do You Do Now?

older woman with a cane

by Howard Gleckman, JCA Immediate Past President

This is the time of year when many of us visit family. And often, we realize that mom or dad needs more help getting through the day than we imagined. Maybe help cooking or cleaning. Maybe much more. But realizing they need support is just the beginning of what can be a difficult and confusing journey.

A new study by Nexus Insights finds that three-quarters of people age 50 and older say they are not confident when making choices about long-term care for parents or spouses. Two-thirds say they wish they had more information.

Most older adults and their families have no idea about what to do, where to go, or who to ask. How do you get a ride to physical therapy? What’s the best assisted living facility in your community? Successfully navigating the labyrinth of care options is, for many families, impossible.

Nexus Insights calls it “a confusing maze….A terrifying and lonely journey filled with dead ends and hidden entrances or exits.”

But there are places to go for help. Here at JCA, you can get information about a wide range of senior services by contacting our Senior Helpline at 240-290-3311 or 703-652-1515, or emailing  You can learn about transportation services by calling our Connect-A-Ride program at 301-738-3252 or 703-323-6494 or emailing

Here are some other sources of information you might consider:

Area Agencies on Aging

There currently are more than 600 of these federally-funded programs around the US. Most are telephone helplines run by local governments, though about 40 percent are operated by community non-profits. Most are staffed by volunteers.

Many focus primarily on home and community- based care and often will not provide information about for-profit services or long-term care facilities such as nursing homes or assisted living facilities. And they rarely have access to up-to-date information about local providers.

Pay-to-play websites

These are sites like A Place For Mom and Their information is free to consumers. But be aware: They make their money from advertising and referral fees from the facilities they recommend.

Geriatric care managers

Sometimes called “aging lifecare managers,” they often are social workers or nurses who charge about y $500 for initial assessments and $100 to $200-an-hour for ongoing consultations and to oversee the care of a loved one. You can find one using their directory.

Employer-based programs

Some large firms offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to provide caregiving information to employees. While sometimes useful, this phone-based assistance often is generic with sparse information about local providers and resources.

Medicare Compare. Medicare’s website provides some information about long-term care facilities and home care agencies. But keep in mind this information often is limited and outdated. And there is no live person to call.

At a time when more and more families desperately need help planning post-hospitalization rehab or long-term supports and services, it is critical that families can access good quality objective sources of information about that care. And right now, that help is not easy to find.