Letter: Assistance available for county caregivers

Assistance available for county caregivers

To the editor:

November is the month when we celebrate all caregivers. I say "celebrate" because it is very important to honor all caregivers who may be caring for a loved one with a serious illness.

Some caregivers are in the beginning of their journey, where they might only provide little assistance such as daily phone calls just to check in and make sure all is well. Other caregivers are more involved with their loved one, possibly providing daily visits, along with medication management, some light cleaning and meals. A third group of caregivers are providing care 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.

The magnitude of caregiving is staggering. According to the National Caregiver Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 43.5 million adult family caregivers provide care to someone aged 50 years or more, and 14.9 million caregivers are caring for someone who has Alzheimer's Disease or other form of dementia. Family caregiver services were valued at $450 billion per year. As the baby boomers continue to age, these numbers will continue to rise.

Elder Services of Berkshire County has a variety of services that can benefit both caregivers and those they care for. The Family Caregiver Support Program is available to caregivers who are caring for someone over the age of 60, or under the age of 60 with a disability, Alzheimer's Disease or a related dementia. We are able to provide individual visits in the caregiver's home, if appropriate. These visits provide caregivers time to discuss their issues and challenges in a safe and confidential setting. Many caregivers are appreciative of having someone to talk with, or vent frustrations without judgement.

We also facilitate caregiver support groups throughout Berkshire County, one in Great Barrington, Pittsfield and North Adams. There are additional support groups that deal with different disease processes. A listing of these groups is available through Elder Services' Information and Referral Department.

In addition, Elder Services' Homecare Program can bring services into the home to assist the elderly care recipient, giving the caregiver a much-needed break. Some of the services that an elder can receive are Meals on Wheels, personal care, meal prep, homemaking and companion. Attendance at a day program can give a caregiver about 6 hours of respite, a couple of days per week. Respite is a necessity for caregivers. We try to gently remind them that if they do not take care of themselves, they will be unable to take care of others.

Also at Elder Services is The Gallagher Alzheimer's Resource Center where a caregiver can find resources to help them in their caregiver journey. New DVDs have already arrived with new books on order. For further information on the Family Caregiver Support Program, contact Bea Cowlin LSW or Leann O'Brien at 413-499-0524. You can also email Bea at bcowlin@esbci.org or Leann at lobrien@esbci.org. For further information on Homecare and other programs at Elder Services, please call 413-499-0524 and ask for our Information and Referral Department.

Bea Cowlin, Pittsfield The writer is caregiver coordinator, Elder Services of Berkshire County.


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