Caregiver burnout is a crisis. This new state program has a way of helping.

By Jessica Hall

“Caring is extremely stressful and caregivers are completely neglecting themselves”

In the wake of the pandemic, which has seen families take on additional caregiving duties, Maine launched a $5.1 million program to give caregivers a much needed break.

The program, called “Respite for ME,” offers grants of up to $2,000 to families in Maine who care for a family member at home. Respite care is another way to care for your loved one so that the primary caregiver can have a break.

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Since the two-year pilot program launched in October, more than 200 inquiries have been received by Maine’s regional agencies on aging, which are partners in the program, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said. .

Under this program, caregivers of people living with a disability, Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementias can receive grants to help them access respite care for their loved one. Caregivers can also receive counseling and training, legal and financial advice, and services to maintain their own health such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy.

“Many people in Maine have taken on new or expanded responsibilities for caring for parents, grandparents, spouses and other family members during the pandemic,” said Maine’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Jeanne Lambew. “These grants will not only help them take care of their loved ones at home, but also take care of themselves. This pilot program will also help us learn how to better support family caregivers in the future.

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Other state, federal, and private foundation programs exist to help provide respite care. Since 2009, Congress has allocated approximately $2.5 million annually to implement Lifespan respite programs. In 2017, competitive grants of up to $200,000 each were awarded to eligible agencies in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

Yet, with the existence of these programs, the vast majority of caregivers do not use respite care.

AARP, in a joint report with the National Alliance for Caregiving titled Caregiving in the United States, found that 38% of caregivers believe respite services would be helpful, but only 14% of caregivers report having used respite services.

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“Respite care is very important. You want to try to avoid burnout. Caregivers are available 24/7, especially with a loved one with dementia. Respite care is needed to that the caregiver can maintain a level of patience and self-confidence. Caregiving is extremely stressful and caregivers completely neglect themselves,” said Debra Feldman, chair of the board of directors of the Aging Life Care Association.

Feldman said signs of burnout include loss of patience, fatigue, depression and loss of sleep.

AARP family and care expert Amy Goyer said it can be difficult for caregivers to offload their responsibilities, especially if a patient says they don’t want anyone else take care of him.

“Caregivers often feel guilty doing something for themselves. But it’s a way of filling you up so you can be a better caregiver,” Goyer said. “Respite care can take many different forms. It can be a complete break for hours or a day or several days for the caregiver, or simply a second set of eyes and hands to watch over the patient. while you do laundry and housework.”

Payment for respite care is another barrier. Prices vary by region, type of treatment and location where it is provided. Respite care runs the gamut from home care, adult day care centers, hospice respite care, and assisted living services that can last for long days.

Even at home, respite care can be simple companionship and security for a patient while the caregiver takes care of other duties at home and expands from there to include bathing, meal preparation , food or shopping.

According to a Genworth survey, adult day care costs an average of $74 a day nationwide, assisted living facilities are the second most affordable option at an average of $141 a day, and care at home are the most expensive option, averaging $150 per day for a home health aide. .

Cost is just one issue. According to experts, the biggest hurdle was finding someone to provide care.

According to an AARP study, the number of potential caregivers is shrinking as populations change and baby boomers age. In 2010, the caregiver support ratio was more than seven potential caregivers for every person in high-risk years 80 and older. By 2030, this ratio is expected to drop sharply to four to one; and it is expected to fall further to less than three to one in 2050, when all baby boomers will be in the high-risk years of the end of their lives.

“The need is definitely growing. Public awareness has been growing for 20 years, but we still have a long way to go. People don’t even know what respite is or how to ask for it,” said

Jill Kagan, Director of National Respite Network and ARCH Resource Center. “Respite care has a huge unmet need.”

“There are multiple barriers to accessing respite care – the list is long and the reasons vary. But the biggest barrier is the direct care worker crisis – people can’t find care providers,” said Kagan said.

-Jessica room


(END) Dow Jones Newswire

11-10-22 0703ET

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Ryan H. Bowman