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Family Caregiver Support Program – Then and Now
By Bea Cowlin LSW, Elder Services Caregiver Liaison
In November 2000, as part of the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, funds were made available for a National Family Caregiver Support Program to create services to address the needs of family caregivers. According to a nationwide National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP survey (April 2004), there are 33.8 million caregivers in 18.5 million households caring for someone over the age of 50. It is evident that the need for the Family Caregiver Support program is immense.
In February 2002, the Family Caregiver Support Program began at Elder Services of Berkshire County. As Caregiver Liaison, I began to address the needs of Berkshire County caregivers. The program comprises several elements including outreach, one-on-one assistance, support groups, and caregiver training.
Elder Services’ Caregiver Liaison is available to meet with caregivers throughout Berkshire County in their homes from Elder Services’ office to any other location convenient for the caregiver. I am also available by phone for support and information.
Recently Margie Ware was hired as the Regional Caregiver Coordinator. Ware will assist with outreach in Berkshire County, informing Berkshire County residents that the Family Caregiver Support program is available to all caregivers caring for someone over age 60.
As Caregiver Liaison, I have met many dedicated caregivers. Sometimes caregivers only ask for basic information. Others need support in making the difficult decision of placing their loved one in the nursing home. Some ask how to deal with difficult behaviors, or they want to know what is available for respite. Many caregivers are burdened with guilt, finding it difficult to take the time they need to rest, enjoy an outing, read, go to a movie, or to just relax. They are often thinking only of what needs to be done, or believe they should be spending every free minute with the person they are caring for. I try to suggest to caregivers that they are better equipped to care for someone else when they take care of themselves first.
Elder Services funds grants for many programs that serve caregivers. The projects funded for 2004-2005 include: the Second Annual Resources Caregiver EXPO, which will take place in April, 2005; an in home education series for caregivers beginning in January 2005 from the Lee Visiting Nurses Association that will include a variety of topics including trainings for personal care, transfers, and much more; The Transition Home Program to provide support and training to anyone transitioning from the nursing home in Northern Berkshire County; and the Community Health Center of the Berkshires will provide care coordination and outreach for elders in the county.
Elder Services’ programs and services assist caregivers in many ways:
• Home Care provides personal care, homemaking services, companions, or attendance at adult day programs.
• Housing might assist elders whose caregivers may work and are unable to provide day long monitoring.
• Caregiver Fund assists in paying for respite or help with the purchase of durable medical equipment.
• SHINE counselors provide needed information on Medicare, MassHealth, supplemental medical insurance, and Prescription Advantage.
• Gallagher Alzheimer’s Resource Center, located at Elder Services, has brochures, books and videos concerning Alzheimer’s disease and general caregiver information.
• “Berkshire Senior” newspaper provides information and interesting articles on a variety of topics, as does our Berkshire Senior TV show.
• Information and Referral Department answers questions on any of the above programs or on any topic regarding elders and resources that are available. (Call 413-499-0524 or 800-544-5242)
For caregiver information and support, call Bea Cowlin, Caregiver Liaison at 499-0524 or 800-544-5242, ext. 113, or email her at email@example.com .