- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

GARY, Ind. (AP) - After a series of strokes left Lena Harris unable to do most things by herself, her 26-year-old son became her full-time caregiver. It hasn’t been easy, but Jermell Harris decided he would do whatever it took to keep his mother out of a nursing home.

Recently, Harris discovered an opportunity for some extra assistance. Caregiver Homes of Indiana, established to help Hoosiers age in place, opened a branch in Merrillville late last year.

The program has shown him how to better care for his 67-year-old mother, including how to administer first aid and make the house more accessible. It also provides him with a stipend so he can continue to tend to her needs around the clock, The Times in Munster reported (https://bit.ly/1uSsSNE ).

“We’ve been taking care of her for a while now,” said Harris, a soft-spoken man who lives with his mother and father in a bungalow on Gary’s southeast side that’s adorned with family pictures and mementos. “It’s been a struggle, but we’ve been doing our best. This makes it a lot easier.”

Caregiver Homes of Indiana has been providing so-called structured family caregiving in the state since mid-2013. Under the program, each client chooses a full-time, live-in caregiver, usually a family member, who is then provided with a daily stipend and supported by monthly visits by a registered nurse and a social worker. The agency currently serves about 160 Hoosiers.

“The goal of the service is for aging and disabled people to remain at home, where of course they most want to be, and for us to provide care to the caregiver,” said Kelli Tungate, operations director for Caregiver Homes of Indiana. “Our primary goal is to delay or altogether prevent institutionalization.”

Clients are referred to the program by their area agencies on aging. The patients must be eligible for Medicaid and have deficits of three or more daily activities.

“Our goal is to find people in Northwest Indiana who are unaware of the services that are being offered and that would benefit them greatly,” said Talma Williams, branch manager for Caregiver Homes’ Merrillville office. “Because a lot of people want to stay at home.”

Jermell Harris is making sure that’s where his mother remains. He said while the family has never considered putting her in a nursing home - he said she worked as a nurse’s aide in such a facility and would never want to live in one herself - the Caregiver Homes program makes that possibility even less likely.

Harris said the agency has advised him on other opportunities for financial help, the legalities of caregiving, even how to give CPR. The family also now plans to install a more accessible shower and maybe even a wheelchair ramp outside. And Harris said his mother, who sat quietly on a chair in the family’s living room during a recent visit, seems to be doing well.

“When she sees people she knows and hasn’t seen for a while, she smiles and tries to join in on the conversation,” he said.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com


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