COA program gives caregivers much needed respite and encouragement

Monday, November 13, 2017

Caregiver Couple
 Lee and Mary at their home.

The theme for the November 2017 observation of National Family Caregivers Month is “Caregiving Around the Clock.” Many caregivers face the challenge of 24/7 caregiving, including Mary, a Hamilton County resident and caregiver for husband Lee.

Family and home are important parts of Mary and Lee’s lives. They have been married for more than 67 years, during which they raised six children and lived in their current home for 47 years.

About four-and-half years ago, Lee was diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s. Mary took on a new role as Lee’s caregiver. With encouragement from her church family and sister, Mary called Council on Aging (COA) for help.

COA enrolled Lee in the Elderly Services Program (ESP), a taxpayer supported program that provides in-home care for eligible Hamilton County seniors. Lee began to attend an adult day program two days a week, with transportation provided by his son and daughter, giving Mary must needed respite.

As time went on, Lee’s needs changed and he required care around the clock. Nighttime became very challenging for the couple, as Lee began to visit the restroom multiple times a night, with Mary always by his side. This began taking a toll on Mary, and she became very exhausted.

Lee’s ESP care manager referred Mary to COA’s Caregiver Support Program, which is unique because the focus is on the caregiver, not the care recipient. COA’s caregiver support nurse, Anna, spoke with Mary on the phone and then scheduled a home visit.

During the visit, Anna learned more about Mary’s role as Lee’s caregiver, and listened to her concerns about being overwhelmed, exhausted and losing patience with Lee. “Anna provides me with reassurance about the emotional part of caregiving. I know she is just a phone call away for encouragement and resources," Mary said.

Realizing the stress of caregiving on Mary, Anna advocated for a third day for Lee at the adult day program, including transportation. "Anna is very helpful and understanding," said Mary. "My goal is to be in our home for at least two more years and COA helps make that possible."

The Caregiver Support Program provides one-on-one support for family or volunteer caregivers.

The program works to:

  • reduce caregiver stress, burden and injuries
  • increase caregiver confidence and knowledge
  • improve the quality of care
  • help caregivers balance their lives and caregiving responsibilities

To qualify, the caregiver or care recipient must be at least 60 years old and live in Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton or Warren counties.

There is no age requirement for family caregivers who provide care for individuals with Alzheimer's disease or related disorders with neurological and organic brain dysfunction.