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Rural Caregiver

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Rural Caregiving
By Liza Berger, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 7)

Where to Turn for Help
Caregiving in rural America carries a unique set of challenges. Medical care and other health and social services are few and far between, and transportation is scarce.  Meanwhile, poverty and a lack of younger family members in these areas present still more impediments to securing necessary care for loved ones.

Despite these hardships, there are places that caregivers can turn to for help. The Rural Assistance Center (, a product of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Rural Task Force, serves as a one-stop online site for information on rural issues. Programs such as The Eldercare Locator and The National Adult Day Care Services Association offer ways for caregivers to seek the help for their loved ones that the need.

Also, in recent years, a few unique programs have cropped up in rural areas to help the elderly. These include PACE (Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) which is now serving 14 rural communities around the country as part of a demonstration project. (For more on PACE, go to Other resources and Web sites for caregivers are listed below.)

Resource Shortage

Living in a rural area makes the already difficult task of caregiving even more of a struggle. One of the biggest problems facing caregivers in rural areas is a lack of medical and health services. There are fewer adult day care centers and in-home health services, such as respite care or meals on wheels, than in urban and suburban areas.

Some statistics: Twenty-two percent of rural caregivers report using an aide or nurse through an agency or service. That compares with 25 percent of urban and 24 percent of suburban caregivers. Also, only four percent of rural caregivers make use of respite services compared with five percent of their urban and suburban counterparts. And only three percent of rural caregivers make use of adult day centers, while eight percent of urban caregivers and six percent of suburban caregivers do. These numbers come from the 2006 report “Caregiving in Rural America,” from Easter Seals and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

Why the lack of services? Not only do rural areas struggle to attract and retain qualified professional medical and social service professionals, but also the government increasingly has been failing to provide adequate funding.  Compounding the problem of accessing needed health and social services is distance: “They are harder to utilize because they are just so geographically dispersed,” noted Shawn Bloom, CEO of PACE.


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