A few years ago, Jane (who preferred not to have her real name used for sensitivity and privacy reasons) brought her mother to live with her after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
She cared for her mother for two years, having no other family nearby to help.
“Every move you make involves taking that individual home and making sure she’s not left alone. It’s very hard, when you don’t have anyone you can call on to give you relief,” Jane said.
Starting this week in Walker County, a new Caregiver Support Project will help people in situations like Jane’s by providing respite, or a break, for caregivers for a few hours.
One purpose of the project is to provide vouchers to eligible caregivers to help them pay for respite care while they take a break.
A second component of the project is Sharing the Care, which provides awareness, social support and knowledge about caregiving skills.
The Caregiver Support Project is a program of the Alabama Lifespan Respite Resource Network (Alabama Respite) and is administered locally by Disability Rights and Resources in Jasper. Until Wednesday, Disability Rights and Resources was called Independent Living Center
“The whole gist of this is to provide support for caregivers,” said Trecia Benefield, disability advocate for Disability Rights and Resources. “When care is falling on the families, the person taking care of the individual needs a break. ... It’s very vital.”
Benefield said respite care can mean the difference between the sick or disabled person living at home or going to a nursing home.
“Most families want their loved ones with them,” Benefield said. “They just need a break.”
The Walker County program is the sixth one like it that Alabama Respite has started. Alabama Respite Program Manager Linda Lamberth said studies show that 818,000 adults in Alabama are home caregivers for other adults.
Lamberth said some caregivers are eligible to receive help through Medicaid or other organizations. She said the purpose of the local Caregiver Support Projects is to help caregivers who do not qualify for help from other sources.
“We’re trying to eliminate as many of the steps as we can in caregivers finding respite,” Lamberth said. “We’re trying to fill in the gaps.”
She said caregivers who have no help from their constant duties often experience high levels of stress, feelings of helplessness and depression.
“Caregiving knows no bounds,” Lamberth said. Caregivers can include people taking care of their children, spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents or other relatives or friends.
The Walker Area Community Foundation is funding the program, in the form of a $5,000 grant.
“We want to create something sustainable to fill an unmet or under-met need in the community,” said Paul Kennedy, president of the foundation. “We were excited. We had never heard this offered in this fashion in Walker County.”
Kennedy said the grant will be used to offer vouchers for respite care and to create the Sharing the Care initiative.
“What I like about this is that it will include the faith-based community as well,”Kennedy said. He said Sharing the Care includes organizing volunteers from churches and civic organizations to fill in as respite caregivers.
“I think there are so many compassionate individuals in our churches who have retired or are at home ... they would love to get out for four hours and help others.”
To receive respite help, caregivers must apply to participate in the program. The program starts this week, according to Benefield.
Applications and information are available at:
•Alabama Respite: (256) 237-3683 or www.alabamarespite.org
•Independent Living Center/ Disability Rights and Resources : (205) 387-0159, 300 Birmingham Ave. in Jasper
•Walker County Community Action Agency: (205) 221-4010, 644 19th ST W in Jasper
In addition, Benefield said her organization is looking for people to participate in the Share the Care coalition and help people fill out applications.
Deidre Tatum, executive director of the Walker County Community Agency, said her organization would assist people with the applications and provide information about the program.