Care Connection focusing on Family Caregiver Program

Care Connection for Aging Services is re-emphasizing the importance of family caregiving by employing a social worker to specialize in this area.

November is National Family Caregiver Month, but Care Connection provides support and services to caregivers year-round.

Social Worker Lisa Lewis took the new position of Family Caregiver Coordinator two months ago and is examining the needs of caregivers and ways that Care Connection might better serve them.

“When someone calls in and says, ‘I need help for my mom’ or ‘I need help for my friend,’ I try to find out how we can help the caregiver,” Lewis said. “I have people who call me from out of state and then some people who are overwhelmed and starting new.”

During those conversations, Lewis said, she tries to understand “what else we as an agency need to do to provide help. Do they need educational materials or support groups – or both?”

Lewis, who has a master’s degree in social work, has spent her career serving older adults in hospitals, nursing homes, adult day care, and group counseling.

The Family Caregiver Coordinator job appealed to her because “We (care managers) work with caregivers every day, but we don’t focus primarily on the caregiver – we focus on the receiver of care. I like that this special niche will allow me to take the time to find out really what the caregivers need and try to provide that for them.”

Families are the primary source of support for older adults in the United States, with as many as 34 million people assuming the caregiver role for spouses, parents, older relatives or close friends. In all, some 43 million people provide care for family members of all ages. Those unpaid caregivers provide services that are worth an estimated $370 billion annually, according to the federal Administration for Community Living.

 Research by the ACL indicates caregiving also takes a significant emotional, physical, and financial toll. With nearly half of all caregivers older than 50, many are vulnerable to a decline in their own health. Studies show that coordinated support services can reduce caregiver depression, anxiety, and stress, and enable them to provide care longer, which avoids or delays the need for costly institutional care for older adults who receive family care.

Besides education and support, the Care Connection Family Caregiver Program can coordinate respite care for caregivers; assist financially with dietary supplements and supplies to help with incontinence; and help with the acquisition of aids such as grab bars or bath chairs.

For more information, call Lewis at 1-800-748-7856 or email her at llewis@goaging.org.

Care Connection for Aging Services is a nonprofit area agency on aging serving people 60 and older through 21 locations in 13 West Central Missouri counties, including Bates, Benton, Carroll, Cedar, Chariton, Henry, Hickory, Johnson, Lafayette Pettis, Saline, St. Clair, and Vernon. Its mission is to provide opportunities to create positive aging experiences. For more information, visit www.goaging.org.

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