November is National Caregiver Month, but, for family caregivers like 82-year-old Celia Hunt, the act of love that is caring for a disabled family member is a 24/7 job.
For Hunt, it’s a calling she’s compassionately attended to for most of her life, starting with caring for her special needs child as he managed cerebral palsy through adulthood until his passing last year. She also cared for her late husband, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2002, and is now the primary home caregiver for her second husband, Edward, an 80-year-old quadriplegic who suffered an unexpected spinal cord stroke more than 10 years ago that left him paralyzed and with a need for a high level of care.
She reached out to Trident Area Agency on Aging over seven years ago when she realized she was in need of additional support.
Hunt credits the local TAAA – a nonprofit organization that offers assistance, advocacy and answers on aging for residents of Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties – for providing the support she needs to continue to care for her husband.
The agency’s Family Caregiver Support Program offers a wide range of support services for family caregivers who provide daily care to their aging loved one or someone with Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder. The five categories of services include: information about services, access to services, counseling, respite care and supplemental services.
Lauren McNally, family caregiver advocate for TAAA’s Family Caregiver Support Program, said the initiative is part of a nationwide program under the Older Americans Act that “recognizes the unpaid labor of in-home family members caring for aging loved ones and has funding attached to offer specialized support.”
“We assess the family’s needs and can offer caregiver respite options such as having an agency come into the home to provide care, adult day care options where the loved one leaves the home or temporary care in a long-term care facility for longer periods of time, like for a trip,” said McNally.
“It means so much,” Hunt said, her voice cracking with emotion. “These things are truly lifesavers for those of us who are caregiving all the time. It is a time of restoration for me. I feel like a new girl when I return back home. I can’t begin to tell you how much it has meant to both of us.”
Linda Naert, program developer for TAAA, explained that caregivers like Hunt often don’t take enough time to replenish themselves when fulfilling their caregiver roles.
“I’ve seen these family members who will take their loved one to 10 doctor’s appointments in a week but may not go to one for themselves in years. It can be difficult to continue to provide care when the caregivers themselves are worn down – that’s where the agency comes in.”
Long-term caregivers like Hunt have found additional solace through TAAA in the months since COVID-19 changed the social landscape by taking advantage of expanded coverage provided to families facing greater strain due to the impact of the global pandemic. These extended services are offered based on individual need, thanks to supplemental temporary funding.
“It wasn’t just the in-home care that was coordinated so I could take a much-needed trip to see family and celebrate my younger sister’s 80th birthday in Savannah,” explained Hunt. “They also helped with needed caregiving supplies that became hard to come by and so much more expensive – like gloves, disinfectants and Lysol.”
“We’ve seen COVID impact these caregivers even more because their family members are the most vulnerable,” said Naert. “This can lead to isolation as many choose to stay indoors rather than risk infection by going out or allowing outside care personnel into the home. We see all of this, and we can help.”
If you are a caregiver seeking family care support, contact the agency directly by calling 843-554-2275 or by visiting www.tridentaaa.org for information on all the programs that are available.