Friday, September 22, 2017

8 Tips to Become a Painter at Any Age

Practical advice for getting started from a happy late-in-life painter

Barbara Twardowski for Next Avenue

An artist paints on the grounds of the Dixon Gallery & Gardens in Memphis, Tenn. Photo by Jim Twardowski
When my son went to college — the same year I turned 50 — I accidentally unlocked a passion for painting.

My friend, Mary, invited a group of women to her home for a painting party. Not considering myself artistic, I hesitated before accepting the invitation. It once took me six months to choose a paint color for my kitchen.

Fortified with wine and the foregone conclusion that I lacked artistic ability, I approached the task with no expectations and total abandonment. Some of the women hovered over their canvases, delicately moving their brushes in tiny precise strokes, striving to match the instructor’s picture of a doorway and a wheelbarrow overflowing with flowers. They were anxious, as if this were a test.

I didn’t fret about how my painting might compare to the others or if I was doing it the “right” way. Mixing the colors on a paper plate, I boldly loaded the brush and covered the white canvas with thick blobs of acrylic paint. Three hours later, the party was over. And I was filled with an exhilaration I hadn’t experienced in perhaps decades.

In one evening, I rediscovered how to play.

The next morning, I rushed to the craft store to buy a beginner’s set of acrylic paints, canvases and a pallet. A table covered with an old shower curtain on my screen porch became an impromptu studio. Looking at the backyard for inspiration, I painted pine trees, clouds and flowers. Oblivious to the time, I didn’t even stop for lunch.

I was in the zone, or a state of consciousness positive psychologists call “flow” — the total absorption into an activity taking all of one’s concentration. The brain can only process so much information, so there is a sense that time ceases, bodily discomforts are ignored and there’s no room in the mind for random negative thoughts.

The more I painted, the more I wanted to learn. I borrowed a stack of books from the library, but what I needed was a teacher. So I signed up for a weekly painting class.

Who knew you can become a painter even if you can’t draw? My enthusiastic teacher embraced beginners. Her mantra: “Be brave.” She believed art is experimentation. When she critiqued a student’s efforts, she always found something to praise — the delicate line of a leaf or the hint of purple in a cloud. She taught us to step away — literally — from the painting and look for what was working. Her technique squelched my inner critic.

Whether you are seeking the occasional evening of entertainment or wish to seriously study art, nurture an interest in painting by trying one or more of these eight tips:

1. Join an Organized Group

Many communities have an art association you can become part of, usually a nonprofit that supports area artists. Mine is the St. Tammany Art Association, with some 800 members who participate in gallery showings, classes and cultural programs like day trips to the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Another resource is your community recreational center, which might offer leisure programs.

If you are looking to meet locals who share your love of art, contact your city, county or state division of the arts to see what might be available.

2. Go Back to School Inexpensively

Check with local colleges about leisure course offerings you could take. Typically, these no-credit enrichment classes are available at a fraction of the cost of a traditional college class.

3. Scout the Art Stores

Craft and art supply stores frequently host painting demonstrations or lessons. Talk to the store manager and ask for a calendar of events.

4. Visit Museums, Botanical Gardens and Galleries

Review the websites of museums, botanical gardens and art galleries to learn about special programs for aspiring artists. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, for instance, conducts adult art classes that relate to the museum’s collection, architecture or special exhibits. The Chicago Botanic Garden offers painting, watercolor and color theory classes with a botanical theme. The Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis allows “Open Studio” participants to bring their sketch pads and pencils for one hour every Friday while an art instructor is on hand to answer questions and help advance their skills.

5. Hire a Pro

Many artists supplement their income by teaching private or group lessons. Ask the local art association for a list of instructors. If your community doesn’t have a formal arts organization, call the high school and speak to an art teacher about getting taught.

If you can’t find an art class that meets your needs, create one. I recruited five friends who wanted to take acrylic painting lessons. We hired a professional artist to teach us in my home. To find an artist, attend art markets, art festivals and gallery showings and look for paintings by artists in your area. When you see work you like, ask the artist if she is interested in teaching. Keep the commitment short — three or four weeks; not every artist is good at teaching.

6. Paint-N-Sip

One of the country’s booming franchises is the paint-n-sip business and it’s a fun way to get started. Painting with a Twist, begun by two entrepreneurial moms from Louisiana, is one of the most successful, with 278 studios in 33 states. They orchestrate parties where friends gather for a few hours sipping an adult beverage and painting. The copyrighted artwork is designed to be finished within two or three hours. Instructors provide entertainment and step-by-step directions. This isn’t intended to be a formal art lesson, it’s a fun outing. Party guests pay $40 and leave with their own creation.

7. Search Online

Lots of inspiration and even lessons can be found by using the Internet. From YouTube videos of “How to Paint a Sunflower”  to the Artists Network University, with professionally produced courses for those who want to do fine art for fun, you’ll find tons of free and affordably priced resources.

8. Create a Painting Club

Like a book club, friends can form a painting group. For five years, Linda Pippins, in the New Orleans area, has belonged to one that meets once a month to watercolor and lunch. When painting, the members offer gentle critiques of each other’s work. Two of the women have even sold some of their pieces. “You just put everything out of your mind and let go of the stress when you are concentrating on colors, shapes and composition,” said Pippins. Laughing, she added, “It’s our therapy.”

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2017. All rights reserved.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

It's Never Too Late to Learn Something New

Don't just watch the kids go back to school this fall

By Patricia Corrigan for Next Avenue

Lunchbox? Check. Backpack? Check. New outfit for the first day? Check.

So you’ve helped get a grandchild or other youngster ready to go back to school. But what about you? Staying mentally active after 50 stimulates neural networks, increases knowledge, enriches life and provides opportunities for social interaction and fun at the same time.

Maybe you’ve secretly always wanted to speak Italian or learn to quilt or try your hand at landscaping. Maybe you’re ready to take up Scuba diving or acting. Perhaps if’s time you developed a new skill that will boost your productivity at work. Or maybe you’re eager to go deep with Shakespeare’s history plays, take up memoir writing, better appreciate opera or learn to make beer.

And maybe now you have the time.

Educational opportunities abound for people 50 and older, in settings that range from traditional classrooms to senior centers to the back room in ceramics shops. You can opt for semester-long courses with or without tests, short-term “quick hit” classes or a scheduled lecture series that provides entertainment as well as education. Some opportunities are free and others are available at discounted prices.

Any learning opportunity can change your life for the better. Consider the Seattle woman I know who waited until her kids were grown to enroll in college. The junior college near her home had just one class available, on geology. She took it, got hooked and went on to earn a master’s degree. Now she is a naturalist with National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions, and she writes poems about basalt and other rock formations.

Here are some ideas on where to look for learning opportunities:

Traditional Schools

Most universities, colleges and junior colleges welcome older adult students. The Penny Hoarder, which started as a blog in 2010 and now claims to have 16 million readers and 1.5 million email subscribers, has located free or cheap college classes for older adults in all 50 states.

“While some institutions only allow senior students to audit classes, many offer the chance to earn credits toward a degree at a reduced — or completely waived — tuition rate,” says the website. Look for opportunities in your state here.

One 70-year-old man in St. Louis first started auditing classes a decade ago at a junior college near his home. “When I retired, I wanted to learn about Photoshop. In a one-day class, sometimes you get too much information at once, so I signed up instead at the junior college,” he said. Since then, he has enrolled in courses on web design, videography and horticulture.

Auditing classes costs him as little as half the regular tuition; sometimes, classes that aren’t full go for even less. “I feel right at home in class, and I always get an ‘A’ for audience participation because I always have a lot of questions,” he said. “I’m learning for the sake of learning.”

Some high schools offer evening classes for adults. On the south shore of Long Island in New York, the Merrick Central High School District offers “a wide array of courses selected to meet the educational, vocational, cultural and recreational needs and interests of adult residents of the community.” Check with a high school near you for learning opportunities.

Osher Centers for Lifelong Learning 

The Bernard Osher Foundation supports 120 lifelong learning programs on college campuses everywhere from Huntsville, Ala., to Fairbanks, Alaska. The foundation, founded in 1977 and based in San Francisco, funds at least one non-credit educational program in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Each program welcomes adults age 50 and older with “a diverse repertoire of intellectually stimulating courses.” And each is required to operate with “robust volunteer leadership” and have established mechanisms for evaluating classes offered and participant satisfaction. To find an Osher-funded program near you, go to the Osher Foundation site.

This spring, Steve Thaxton, executive director of the National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, spoke with Next Avenue about adult learning trends in the future. 

The Oasis Institute

Founded in St. Louis in 1982, Oasis promotes “healthy aging through lifelong learning, active lifestyles and volunteer engagement.” The nonprofit educational organization serves adult learners in 40 cities and is said to reach more than 50,000 individuals each year. Find out at this part of the Oasis site if Oasis is available where you live.

In addition to developing national programs and providing training and support for individual Oasis education centers, the Oasis Institute also works with hundreds of partners interested in lifelong learning, including health providers, corporations, senior centers, community organizations, libraries, colleges and senior living organizations.

Local Community Centers and Shops

Many city parks and recreation departments offer classes and activities for older adults. In Austin, the city’s website says, its activities for people 50 and older include “pursuing old hobbies and learning new ones, socializing with friends, meeting new people, increasing knowledge, becoming and staying physically fit, supplementing income and contributing to the community.”

Jewish Community Centers (JCC), with more than 350 locations across the country, welcome one and all to a variety of classes in everything from pottery to yoga to painting to mindfulness-based stress reduction to dance. Some JCCs also sponsor book clubs and provide lectures by art museum docents about current exhibits around town.

Community-based senior centers often provide classes on topics that interest participants, including everything from chair caning to current events to working with mosaic tiles. If a center near you doesn’t teach what you want to learn, propose the topic and help find an instructor.

In your quest to learn something new, don’t overlook local shops owned by artisans. If the owner doesn’t offer classes in his or her specialty, ask about a trial apprenticeship so you can determine whether, say, woodworking or knitting or glass blowing suits you.

Classrooms on the Move 

If hands-on learning about other countries, other cultures or just the geology of your own state interests you, look to an educational travel program. Road Scholar, formerly known as Elderhostel, offers more than 5,500 study tours throughout the U.S. and Canada and in 150 other countries, all geared to older adults and led by experienced guides.

Group size, activity levels and prices vary according to the trip, and some scholarships are available. Destinations include The Kentucky Derby, several national parks, “signature cities” of the world and a cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers following the path of Lewis and Clark.

Also, some colleges sponsor educational travel opportunities for alumni. Check with yours and say that you are ready to go back to school. No new outfit required!

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2017. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Summer House at Claremont Manor Residents Participate in Memories in the Making Art Show

Jeanne Stratford and Lois Boettcher display original work at exhibit in Santa Monica

Jeanne Stratford and Lois Boettcher, residents at Summer House at Claremont Manor, were among more than 200 artists to display their work at the annual Memories in the Making exhibit and auction this summer in Santa Monica.

“Only 25 pieces are chosen from more than 200 submitted,” said Terralyn Hamlin, life enrichment director at Claremont Manor, who submitted the art on behalf of Jeanne and Lois. “We have some amazing artists here which is evidenced by them being chosen for this exhibit.”

Jeanne Stratford (left) and Lois Boettcher. 
Memories in the Making is a unique fine arts program for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias that offers a creative and non-verbal way of communicating and capturing precious moments through art.

Those with no art background can create art to regain the ability to communicate while boosting self-esteem and opening the channels of communication and connections with families, professional caregivers, and others.

Each year, Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles hosts a gallery exhibition and auction of the artwork created by artists of contracted Memories in the Making sites. It provides an opportunity for families to enjoy the art and raises funds for programs and services.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association website, Memories in the Making is one of the Association’s unique “arts4ALZ” programs. It helps provide insight into the thoughts and memories that participants are often challenged in communicating. It is made possible through support of Susan Disney Lord, Abigail Disney, Tim Disney, and Roy P. Disney in honor of their mother, Patricia Disney.

 © Front Porch Communities and Services 2017


Friday, August 25, 2017

Summer House Residents Join in Harmony

Joyful Hearts chorus uplifts participants

Tomoko has memory challenges. For the past year, she has lived at Summer House at Villa Gardens, the memory care community in Pasadena. Although Tomoko sometimes struggles to recognize family members and recent events, she can recall all the words to Amazing Grace, America the Beautiful and other favorite songs. And for her longtime friend, Esther, singing together offers a powerful point of connection for the two of them to share.

“It was important for me to join her in the chorus as her buddy,” Esther said. “I can see a difference in her mood when she comes here to sing.”

Twice a week, Tomoko, Esther and about 20 residents living at Summer House at Villa Gardens and Villa Gardens Health Center, many with memory challenges, rehearse side by side with their “buddies” in the Joyful Hearts chorus. 

“Now is the time for the magic to begin,” exclaims Sheen Sanchez, a professional choir director with experience working with people
diagnosed with memory impairment. As Sheen raises his arms and his accompanist begins tapping the piano keys, suddenly residents who entered the room having difficulty holding a thought or stringing even a few words together, sing tunes ranging from patriotic favorites, holiday classics and American standards.

"We know that music is stored in a part of the brain that's last affected by memory illnesses," says Lucy Jones, Summer House manager at Villa Gardens. “It’s our way of increasing fun and engagement through music and the social experience.”

Volunteer ‘buddies’ play a key role in socialization and singing support for the residents. ‘Buddies’ include fellow residents, community volunteers and/or family members who also participate.

“Music makes the heart come alive,” Sheen said. “Residents are responding with enthusiasm. We choose well-known songs from an era the majority remember. That makes it easy for singers to participate.” 

Many studies show involvement in participatory arts programs have a positive effect on mental health, physical health, and social functioning in older adults, regardless of their ability. Musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining cognitive abilities that are found with musical memory shown to survive relatively well. As such, music is increasingly being lauded as one of the best ways to move beyond the disease and reach the person at all stages of dementia – providing an important channel of communication when others are challenged.

“Our goal is not perfection,” said Bonnie Stover, director of volunteer services for Front Porch, who helped organize the Joyful Hearts. “We emphasize the joy found in the process of weekly participation in the rehearsals and the socialization that goes along with it. We have provided professional training and support for our volunteer buddies as well as staff assistance at all rehearsals.”

“It’s been a positive experience,” said volunteer buddy Mark Jolley.
“I’m happy to be here to support (Summer House resident) Roy.”

Rehearsals will continue through the summer and fall. Sheen plans to merge the Joyful Hearts with a youth choir, Los Angeles Young Ambassadors, which he instructs, culminating in intergenerational community performances in August and in December.

Joyful Hearts is a collaboration among Summer House at Villa Gardens, Villa Gardens Health Center, FACT Foundation, California Lutheran Homes and Community Services and Front Porch Volunteer Services.

© Front Porch Communities and Services 2017


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Greetings from the Alexa Club!

Carlsbad By The Sea Resident Takes "Alexa" for a Test Run

By Corinne Sawyer, resident at Carlsbad By The Sea

Enthusiasts were delighted that so many people (perhaps 40-50) attended the first meeting of the Carlsbad By The Sea Alexa Club last week.

Using the Amazon Echo or Dot technologies has proved great fun and an enormous convenience for many of us, and sharing the latest “trick” we’ve discovered with our own use of “Alexa” has become a daily pleasure. We act like proud parents showing off our kids … or the owners of especially cute dogs … who revel in the admiration of others. Speaking personally, I haven’t had this much fun with a “gadget” in years and years, not to mention that I find it useful. And Jessica Yoon (a member of Front Porch’s Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, who shepherds the Alexa trials here) finds us new “skills” to try all the time … i.e., new things Alexa can do.  

How is it useful, the uninitiated may ask? Well, I don’t have to find a clock (and be sure it’s got the right time and hasn’t run out of batteries!) — I just ask Alexa the time. I figure out what to pull out of the closet to wear, and whether to put on extra sun block during my walk by asking Alexa for a weather report the night before. I get a “flash news briefing” from my favorite station (she gives you your choice — CNN, Fox, CBS, PBS. and even the BBC, if you prefer your news with a high-toned accent.) I am now letting Alexa keep my personal appointment calendar to back up my written notes (which I too often mislay).

I’m happily part of a small test group using Alexa to set our thermostats — all without moving from my easy chair, mind you — and turn on (or off) a night light at the far end of the living room, just by voice command. I set alarms and timers on Alexa — just in case I doze off over the novel I’m reading. I don’t want to miss the time for my bridge game, do I? Nor leave the laundry in the dryer to get re-wrinkled because I nodded off and didn’t get it out in time. Alexa doesn’t nap and she wakes me in time to get the wash-and-wears out and onto hangers (Now if only I could train her to do that part too).

She plays my favorite music on request ... though a secondary speaker would enhance the sound the Dot can deliver. (Echo is better than the Dot on sound, and the new Show is best of all, with twin Dolby speakers ... but that’s a subject for another day.)

Most fun of all was setting up Alexa-to-Alexa messaging with two friends who also have started using this magical device. Alexa’s usual bright blue signal ring (when she has an alarm for me) shows bright greenish-yellow, and a bell rings ... and one of my friends has left me a message. Yes, we could wait ‘till we saw each other in the lobby. Yes, we could use the telephone. But there’s something so personal and private AND FUN about using Alexa. I haven’t had this much fun since we were kids and strung a wire between two tin cans and played “telephone.”

If you’re a “hold out” who says, “Who needs this complication? I do fine without it,” well yes, you do — thanks to all the help and services Carlsbad By The Sea offers us. True. But once you have accustomed yourself to saying “Alexa ... good morning” and had her cheerfully announce “Good morning. Did you know this is National Shark Week? Ask me to tell you a shark joke.” You’ll be hooked. And you’ll love it. Ask John Sanders or Chris Craig-Jones to set you up and get you started. There are Dots available through the Alexa Club. As the ad used to say “Try it ... you’ll like it.” Guaranteed.

The Amazon Alexa, a voice-activated personal assistant, has commanded the attention and excitement of consumers since its release. In collaboration with residents and staff at Carlsbad by the Sea, a Front Porch retirement community, the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing launched a pilot to explore the potential use case scenarios of this emerging innovation.

To learn more check out MIT Technology Review's recent article The Octogenarians who love Amazon's Alexa, or read our impact story on


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to Declare Your Financial Independence

Tips from a man who did, plus apps and sites that can help you
Richard Eisenberg for Next Avenue
Jonathan Chevreau now lives the life he wrote about in Findependence Day

We’ve just scooted passed the 4th of July, so what better time to talk about a few ways that could help people in their 50s or 60s declare their
financial independence within the next few years?

You may have noticed that the goal of “financial independence” and its close cousin “financial freedom” seem to be replacing the traditional goal of “retirement.”

“Freedom and freedom money really resonate a lot more than ‘retirement’ when we do focus groups,” said Chris Brown, a partner at the
Hearts & Wallets financial services market research firm.

Freedom, Not Retirement

The financial advisory industry is onto this, too. Merrill Lynch, for example, has announced a holistic approach for clients, known as Clear. “It’s not just about investing. It’s about your life priorities and connecting your life to your finances to help enable those things,” David Tyrie, head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told me.

Some smaller financial advisory firms say they’ve been doing this kind of client counseling for years. “We believe it’s the right way to manage money,” said Dave Richmond, a founding partner at Richmond Brothers in Jackson, Mich.

Living the Financial Independence Life

A guy who knows a lot about financial independence — and just began living it — is financial writer and editor Jonathan Chevreau. I relayed his advice last year when Chevreau was the editor of Canada’s MoneySense magazine (the northern version of our Money) and had just published the U.S. edition of Findependence Day, a “fictional finance” novel.

But on May 20, 2014, a month after his 61st birthday, Chevreau left his magazine job and declared his own financial independence.

Although he’s now blogging twice a week for MoneySense (“contracting back 40 percent of what I was paid as a salaried employee”), Chevreau is otherwise taking the summer off to watch the World Cup, travel to Turkey and read books on semi-retirement. After that, he intends to work when he wants and only as much as he wants, writing fiction and nonfiction and taking on speaking engagements.

“It’s experimental,” Chevreau said. “I’m learning as I go.”

In truth, he noted, his financial independence timing “wasn’t particularly mine.” But it was pretty close. “I would’ve preferred to go another year,” he said.

Chevreau’s 5 Financial Independence Rules

Now that he’s living the goal he novelized, I asked Chevreau whether he’d amend any of the five rules his book laid out on achieving financial independence:

1. Pay off your home in full.

2. Find multiple sources of income for retirement.

3. Develop “guerilla frugality” habits.

4. Save 20 percent of your gross income.

5. Invest with a “Lazy ETF” portfolio — selecting, say, three Exchange Traded Funds (a U.S. stock fund, an international stock fund and a U.S. bond fund) and holding onto them, rebalancing as needed.

Chevreau said he is not only sticking by them, he’s been living them, with a strong debt aversion and an allergy to excessive spending. He just sold his old Volvo and bought — for cash — a two-year old Camry Hybrid. “Its gas mileage is three times better than the Volvo’s,” said Chevreau.

Now that he’s not employed full-time, Chevreau said he’s an even bigger fan of the Easy ETF portfolio.

“When I was working full-time, I was constantly checking financial websites and listening to stock-oriented podcasts from The Motley Fool or Jim Cramer,” he noted. “Now, I’d prefer to have the Easy ETF portfolio in this phase of my life and not have the anxiety of individual stocks going up and down.”

2 Electronic Tools to Declare Financial Independence

If you’d like free electronic help to achieve financial independence, I have two suggestions:

Freedom$. This is a nifty iPhone app from the Hearts & Wallets folks. (You can find it in the iTunes store or at

Freedom$ lets you see how you’re doing compared to others your age. More important, it quickly shows you how much sooner you’ll achieve “financial freedom” by adopting any, or all, of the 10 financial behaviors of the most successful people in the annual survey of households the firm has conducted (20,000 have been surveyed over four years).

You start by just entering your age, your total assets and your total consumer debt (other than your mortgage). Then, Freedom$ calculates your Assets to Income Ratio. The goal: to become what Freedom$ calls a “10-timer,” where your assets equal 10 times your income.

Next, you get a Freedom Score: an estimate of how many years until you’ll achieve financial freedom. This number that will shrink if you take on the “good” behaviors and get extra points for doing so. For example, Freedom$ says, try to “save in a burst” by turbocharging the amount you’re putting away, something that could be easier once you’re no longer paying for your kids’ college education.

“Burst saving is three times more common among 10-Timers — 64 percent of them did it — making it one of the most important differences between 10-Timers and others,” said Brown.

The whole process should take about 30 minutes, longer if you want to give yourself electronic reminders to take actions that’ll help you find financial freedom sooner.

FlexScore is an excellent, free site to help you with day-to-day money management. I wrote about it last fall.

Like Freedom$, FlexScore also calculates a score for you and shows you how to raise the number. Since I first talked about FlexScore, the company has now also created FlexScore Pro, a version financial advisers can use with their clients.

Hope you had a safe and happy 4th and here’s hoping you achieve financial independence when you want.

© Twin Cities Public Television - 2017. All rights reserved.



Thursday, July 20, 2017

9 Ways Family Caregivers Can Get a Break

Here's how to get respite care, and sometimes get help paying for it
Sherri Snelling for Next Avenue

Credit: Adobe Stock

“Respite care” can be a little difficult to understand. The words don’t make it clear who is being helped. The “care” goes to the person who needs it due to illness or disability. The “respite” — a chance to rest and recharge — goes to the family member or other volunteer who would normally be on the spot, doing the caring. As for who gets helped by this? Everybody does.

“If family caregivers don’t take the time needed to care for themselves, we will face an additional health care crisis,” says Lily Sarafan, CEO of California-based Home Care Assistance, which provides support services including respite care. “Caregiver burnout can be associated with serious health issues including depression, and yet burnout is still not recognized as a real health issue in the eyes of many caregivers. Families and communities need to develop sustainable care plans that do not just rely on a single individual.”

Even when caregivers do recognize their need for respite, they might not seek it. For many, it’s hard to carve out the time or money to arrange respite care.

One place that tries to make the process easier for caregivers is the nonprofit ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center. ARCH is a searchable online state-by-state guide to respite service providers and sources of funding to help pay for care.

“Don’t wait until a crisis to use respite,” says Jill Kagan, ARCH’s program director. “If you wait until you are overwhelmed, it is less effective than if you plan consistent respite breaks.”

Here are eight more places that can help families get respite care:

Government-Funded Programs for Respite Care / Your Local Area Agency on is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging. It has a searchable locator feature for finding aging and caregiving resources, and it will lead you to one of the best one-stop-shops for help in your region, your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). AAAs are knowledgeable about all federal, state and local programs that might apply to your situation, including respite services and any financial aid that might be available to you. There are, for example, waiver and voucher programs that provide free respite care covered by Medicaid for those who meet program requirements. Kagan cautions that the waiting list for these programs is long, however. AAAs also administer federal dollars from initiatives such as the National Family Caregiver Support Program. Federal money that AAAs distribute to service providers in your community helps subsidize those services and lowers out-of-pocket costs for families.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — If you are caring for a veteran, look into the respite care provisions of the Veterans Administration (VA) Standard Medical Benefits Package, which allows for 30 days of free respite care per year for qualifying veterans and caregivers. The respite can be provided in the home, through an adult day care center or through VA nursing homes called Community Living Centers.

Legacy Corps — This program for military families and caregivers is part of AmeriCorps, run by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service. Legacy Corps volunteers, many of them military veterans and caregivers themselves, provide companionship in the home to care recipients — up to 10 hours a week, in some cases — allowing the family caregiver to take a break. Caregivers must apply and be accepted. Get more information on Legacy Corps through the VA Benefits Administration office in your area or through your region’s Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). Most ADRCs are part of an Area Agency on Aging. If your ADRC is a separate entity, your AAA will be able to help you connect with it.

Nonprofit Grant Providers for Respite Care

Some organizations offer support specific to the illness or disability a family is dealing with, including these two programs for Alzheimer’s respite care:

Hilarity for Charity — This nonprofit, started by actor-comedian Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller Rogen, has provided grants for 191,000 hours of respite care for families living with Alzheimer’s disease. Care is provided by Hilarity for Charity’s partner in this project, the Home Instead Senior Care Network. Caregivers can apply at Hilarity for Charity.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America—The foundation provides annual grants to its nonprofit member organizations for respite care in local communities. Find out which organizations provide grants to caregivers at the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America website.

Additional Respite Care Tips for Further Exploration

Try reaching out to other disease-related organizations (e.g., the Alzheimer’s Association, American Cancer Society, Easter Seals) to ask about grants or programs that give free or reduced-cost respite care. Check also with adult day care centers and faith-based organizations. Many have ways to provide or support respite care. Again, your Area Agency on Aging might know about these resources and be able to help you connect with them.

Programs also exist outside of the usual caregiving settings. The Family Caregiver Alliance based in San Francisco offers Bay Area residents a Camp for Caring. In this successful 20-year-old program, care recipients are cared for in a “camp” setting with health care professionals while family caregivers can stay at home and take a break.

Employers, Friends, Family

Your Workplace — A 2016 report from the Society for Human Resource Management showed both good and bad trends for working caregivers. On the positive side, 75 percent of employers with 50 or more employees provide full (unpaid) family and medical leave coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), up to 12 weeks of leave. Some states, such as California, have paid leave under the FMLA. The report also found that the number of employers offering access to respite care has doubled since 2005. Still, only six percent of all employers include this respite care benefit in their employee assistance programs. Check with your employer to learn which benefits are available to you as a caregiver.

Online Hubs for Care Coordination — Several online communities have been created to ease the task that falls to caregivers when friends and family want to help out — specifically helping with coordination. Most of these sites offer an online calendar where the caregiver can list tasks for which he or she would like help: grocery shopping, picking kids up from school, sitting with the care recipient so the caregiver can take a jog or a yoga class. Using these sites requires being willing to ask for help and inviting your friends and family into your private online community so they can see what you need and volunteer to do it. Two of the largest of these sites are Lotsa Helping Hands, which supports more than 100,000 caregiver online communities, and CaringBridge.

Caregiver Co-ops — These co-ops let caregivers bank “social capital” in the form of volunteer hours. Individual co-ops decide how their banking system will work, but in general the principle is that a caregiver who gives volunteer hours to help another caregiver can ask for equivalent hours of help from co-op members later on. Ask around at caregiver support groups to see if there’s a caregiver co-op in your community. Or consider starting a co-op with other caregivers you know.

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