When talking about caregiver respite, Linda Naert, program developer with Trident Area Agency on Aging (TAAA), said, “We all know a caregiver.”
And, locally, the odds are definitely quite good that we do. TAAA reported that since July 1, 2018, they have provided services to over 750 family caregivers in the tri-county area. And those are just the caregivers that sought help through TAAA.
TAAA is a nonprofit organization that provides assistance, advocacy and answers for our local aging population. They offer resources and information on long-term care, minimizing confusion, enhancing independence and supporting informed decisions.
But perhaps one of the most important services they offer is respite for caregivers.
“Many caregivers feel they are on an island,” she said. “They feel alone and stressed.”
TAAA is a resource for caregivers of homebound family members to keep them from getting burned out.
“We know it is ideal to keep their family members around loved ones for as long as possible,” Stephanie Blunt, executive director of TAAA, said.
The five types of caregiver services that TAAA offers are: information on available resources; gaining access to those services; individual counseling and training; respite care; and supplemental services.
TAAA’s Family Caregiver Advocate, Lauren McNally, said, “The health of the caregiver is very important, too. They are caring for their loved one 24/7. It is mentally and physically exhausting when they have no support at all. We have found that oftentimes they neglect their own health.”
And when it comes to respite, Blunt said there is “no one size fits all.”
“It is really up to the caregiver,” she said. “Respite can include in-home care, a day respite program, adult daycare or a facility stay. The caregiver can use the short-term family caregiver respite for a few hours at a time or for a few days at a time if they want to go out of town.”
“It is all about empowering the caregiver,” Blunt explained. “We follow their lead on what they are most comfortable with.”
TAAA can also give advice and specialized assistance to caregivers who have a family member suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.
“Many caregivers don’t know anything about the disease,” McNally said. “They don’t know what to expect. We are here to guide them and offer support.”
Blunt encourages anyone in the tri-county area who needs assistance as a family caregiver to give them a call.
“We are here to support our local community’s aging population, and that includes their family caregivers,” she concluded. “They should not feel alone. We know it is a huge responsibility, but we are here to help.”
As for the general public and how they can help, Naert reiterated, “We all know a caregiver. Offer to bring them lunch or sit with their loved one while they go run an errand. It goes a long way to offer respite to a caregiver, even for just a little while.”