Caregivers need care, too

Published 1:30 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

By Carrie Miller

Davie Senior Services

Caregiver – the one word that changes your life whether you are a spouse, child, or friend.

November is National Family Caregivers Month in the United States. It is observed to call attention to the work of more than 50 million family caregivers across the country.

The Family Caregiver Program in Davie County is housed at Davie Senior Services.

Social worker, Kelly Sloan, meets with caregivers and works with them to coordinate support if they have care recipients living at home in Davie County.

Other eligibility guidelines are that the person they are providing care of have Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, or be over the age of 60 and need assistance with two or more activities of daily living.

While the grant program is not income based, priority is given to those with lower economic and minority populations. The program is funded by block grant funds received from the  Piedmont Regional Council Area Agency on Aging and is supplemented through Woodson grant funds and also the Davie Community Foundation and Endowment funds.

One of the primary things that Family Caregiver Support is able to offer is respite.  This is a unique word that simply means just taking a “break”. The program receives a limited amount funding to help provide respite to loved ones in need, and works with local contracted agencies to make this happen.

This allows family caregivers to take time to get their hair done, attend an event, take themselves to their own appointments, play golf, attend church or go on outings with friends while being assured that their care partner is safe. This is a valuable resource for caregivers in Davie County.

The Elizabeth & Tab Williams Adult Day Center in Forsyth County also partners with our program to caregivers who would like to use adult daycare as an option.

There are other opportunities for caregivers in Davie County, starting with the Family Caregiver Support Group that meets twice a month on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays at the Davie Senior Services’ Main Campus. This is a time for caregivers to share their stories or hear from speakers on topics such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Many group members are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and dementia but any caregiver is welcome to attend.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Family Caregiver Support Group met via Zoom each week to offer support through the isolated times. There are several caregivers that meet with this group to talk about transitions from home to other varieties of care such as memory care units, nursing homes, or hospice.

When asked about the Family Caregiver Support Group, five year-member, Roni Barney, said:

“When you feel you are alone with your loved one, you feel like you’re the only one going through what you’re going through. The support group shows how everyone is going through the same. No matter how many caregiving classes you go through, it is not the same as the experience. The support group shares tips and related experiences including that relief and taking a break is a good idea, especially when you are caring for a loved one 24/7.”

Barney, a former member of the group, also introduced the idea of robotic pets.

Her daughter, Janis Myers, found the robotic pets from researching Alzheimer’s and pets because her grandmother loved animals. From here, they purchased both a cat and a dog for Barney’s mother. They could never tell if she thought the animals were truly real.

Myers, who worked at a vet’s office, asked to take the puppy in for a check-up. When she did, they found Cheetos in the puppy’s mouth. These pets are able to purr, bark, and be brushed or petted as if they are real. Thus, the robotic pet program in Davie County was born.

Since 2020, Davie County Senior Services’ Family Caregiver Program has been able to purchase robotic pets for care recipients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia in Davie through grant funding and memorial donations.

The Program offers more to aid caregivers in Davie County. It provides a limited amount of incontinence supply vouchers where supplies can be delivered to the caregiver’s door or purchased at Foster Drug.

When asking a participant about the supplies, they said: “Being able to get some help to purchase adult briefs and Ensure was very helpful for my parents. They are on a limited income and every little bit helps.” Supplies can range from bed pads and adult briefs to wipes and Ensure supplement drinks.

Another program within the Family Caregiver Support Program is a GPS Tracker for those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia who tend to wander. The GPS Trackers are thru Angel Sense, and allow the caregiver to see where their loved one is at all times as long as their loved one is wearing the tracking device.

When asking a caregiver about the GPS tracker, they said: “I am thankful to have received the GPS tracking device for my Mom. She doesn’t use a phone anymore so keeping track of her that way wouldn’t work. I was able to attach the Angel Sense device to my Mom’s shoes and download the app on my smartphone.  So now if Mom wants to walk to take a walk outside and is gone a longer than normal, I can use my app and see her exact location. I don’t ever worry about her getting lost.”

As we all know, Alzheimer’s and Dementia can cause a variety of changes. To keep their brain stimulated, one of the options that theprogram offers is two choices of Activity Kits filled with activities that the caregiver and loved one can do together or the loved one can do on their own to give the caregiver respite time.

When asking caregivers about the activity kits, one shared: “The dementia specific activity kit that I received for my wife was so beneficial for us. There are so many neat things in the activity kit that we were able to do together.  Her favorite thing was the Aqua Paint Book. We put water in a cup and she used the brush on the blank paper and the pretty pictures appeared.”

Another caregiver shared: “My Dad loved the puzzle that came in the activity kit. It had 13 pieces and they were all very large so he was able to do it almost completely by himself.”

If you’re not sure that this program is for you or if you have questions and want to discuss your options or your particular unique caregiver situation, call to speak to Sloan to set up a home visit or a time to meet.  There are also some other publicly funded respite options and programs if this program isn’t for you.

As one can see, Davie County Senior Services is here to support caregivers through their journey with their spouses, parents, and friends as needs arise.

Call 336-753-6230 for more information.