ADRC cares for caregivers
By Janelle Fisher
BROWN COUNTY – The beginning of November marked the beginning of National Family Caregiver month — a month dedicated to recognizing and supporting those who provide care for a family member who may be aging or disabled and can no longer completely care for themselves.
But caring for a family member is no easy task.
“The caregivers are no longer able to just get up and go,” said Teri Bradford, caregiver specialist at the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Brown County (ADRC). “They have to plan for someone to come in and stay with their loved one so they can go out and about and do the things that they want and/or need to do.”
Bradford said that many caregivers struggle to make time for themselves, which leaves them exhausted.
“So often we hear about caregiver burnout,” she said. “We hear caregivers are physically and emotionally drained. They’re exhausted. As caregivers, we’re really good at taking care of everybody else, but we are not good at taking care of ourselves.”
In addition to the time and energy commitments required of caregivers, Bradford said caregiving often comes with a financial burden as well.
“It’s always costly,” she said. “Those agencies coming in are $20-$25 an hour or more. Even if someone is not with one of the agencies — maybe a nursing student — it’s still $15-$20 an hour. A lot of people can’t afford that.”
Help is out there
Although there are several resources out there to provide support for caregivers, Bradford said the biggest obstacle in accessing those resources is just knowing they’re out there and figuring out how to tap into them — something the ADRC is well-equipped to assist with.
“Unless you know those resources exist, how are you going to get connected to them?” she said. “The ADRC is kind of like that gateway. We have the knowledge, we can make those connections and we can connect the families as the needs arise, which is awesome. We’ve been doing this and handling these programs for five years now and it’s just continually been an education process.”
To help with the financial strains of caregiving, Bradford said there are several programs available to help.
For caregivers of a family member with a memory-related diagnosis, funding through the Alzheimer Family Caregiver Support Program is available to help cover some care-related costs.
The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) is also available to people who care for a family member, regardless of the diagnosis.
Not all caregivers need help in the same areas, but Bradford said funding through the AFCSP and the NFCSP can be used to cover a wide variety of expenses to suit their situation, including home maintenance, day programs, assistive technology and more.
“What I love about these programs is that we’re really able to customize a care plan for each individual caregiver,” she said. “What works for one doesn’t work for the other. So families are able to utilize these dollars to reimburse for having somebody mow their lawn so they didn’t have to, or do the snow removal so the caregivers aren’t out there on icy driveways.”
Bradford said being able to pay someone to come in to do tasks around the house also helps people keep boundaries between their roles as family members and as caregivers.
“Having somebody come in to do housekeeping means they can be more present with their loved one and actually be wife or spouse or child instead of housekeeper,” Bradford said.
The NSFCP can also provide aid to grandparents raising their grandchildren.
“The other beautiful thing about the NFCSP is that we also have a certain percentage of funds that go towards grandparents who are raising their grandchildren for whatever reason — when the parents are absent and they’re taking care of them,” she said. “For the grandparents, this can cover after-school programs. We’ve got one family that’s participating in scouting, or they’ve used it to send their grandkids to a Star Wars camp so Grandma and Grandpa get that break while he’s in camp all day.”
Bradford said many families have additional needs after they’ve used their available AFCSP and NFCSP funding and there are other grants that can be applied for.
“We’ve got a lot of families that this funding doesn’t even scratch the surface,” she said. “So when they’ve used their full thousand dollars there, we steer them in the direction of the Respite Care Association. They have two different grant programs, one of which will cover 100% of five days of respite. Even if that’s bringing somebody into the house 24 hours a day or having someone go into an assisted living facility, they’ll cover 100%. The other grant they have is a supplemental grant where they can apply for an additional $250 every 90 days.”
Talking it out
In addition to financial resources, there are several other programs in place at the ADRC to support caregivers.
One of those programs is the Mug Club support group, which meets both virtually and in-person on the second Wednesday of each month.
“Our Mug Club is for any and all caregivers,” Bradford said. “So we’ve got caregivers who are caring for dads, sisters, brothers, adult children with disabilities. We’ve got some that are doing both and caring for their parents and their special needs kids. It’s a nice mixture. And no two caregiver journeys are the same, but they still have enough in common that they really look forward to coming together every month.”
Also available for caregivers through the ADRC and other locations around the world is a class called Powerful Tools.
“That is a six-week class and each week kind of builds on each other,” Bradford said. “And it’s nice because it talks about everything from better communication techniques to how to identify and deal with your stress to all the emotions — the guilt, the anger, the frustration — that we deal with as caregivers. The focus isn’t on who you’re taking care of, it’s all about the caregiver.”
Bradford said the ADRC is also able to connect caregivers to Trualta, an online resource with videos and articles designed to help family caregivers reduce stress, find local resources and provide better care for their loved ones.
For people who are not caregivers but may know someone who is, Bradford said the best way to help a caregiver is to make sure they know what resources are out there.
“Give them our card,” she said. “Encourage them to call us. It really is just about having a cup of coffee and talking through what’s happening. Every person can get resource information.”