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The National Family Caregiver Support Program offers help to stressed caregivers

by Carol Bradley Bursack, Editor-in-Chief

Respite care program are in place so the caregiver can have a break. While there aren't nearly enough programs, there are some. One is the Federally funded National Family Caregiver Support Program. Caregivers need to be aware that respite care can benefit the care receiver as much as the caregiver, since a rested caregiver is generally a better caregiver.

Every so often I write in my newspaper column about The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) and the support it offers. I specifically mention respite care for caregivers and then I give a phone number for the agency that administers this program for my area. I'm told by the agency that their phone rings non-stop, with many callers sobbing into the phone, "I didn't know this existed!"

I don't need to tell you how gratifying it is for me to hear I've helped spread the word about one way caregivers can get some relief and support. This program wasn't available for me over the two decades when I cared for a total of seven elders. Quite frankly, like many of you, I'm not sure I would have taken the time to see if such a thing existed, if it had. I was too busy to bother with the research. However, it is worth your time to make this one phone call.

It's highly unlikely you'll regret you did.

The National Family Caregiver Support Program

The National Family Caregiver Support Program was established in 2000. Each state offers a somewhat different program with benefits administered it in various ways. However, most programs include some respite care for the caregiver.

The services provided by Federal funding work in conjunction with community-based services to provide coordinated support for caregivers and their families. NFCSP in North Dakota, the state where I live, is administered through regional human service care centers. They offer support services to family caregivers of persons age 60 and older, or adults of any age with dementia. They also offer services to people over age 60 who provide care for disabled person under 18.

Services include:

  • providing information to caregivers about available support services
  • providing caregiver access to supportive services
  • providing individual counseling, support groups and caregiver training;
  • providing respite care and supplemental services (such as emergency response systems and home modifications)

Caregivers should take advantage of the Federally funded program or funding can be lost. So do your patriotic duty and get some help.

The National Family Caregiver Support Program: How Do I Get This Help?

To find out specifics in your state, go to your state's Web site and look under aging services. Contact your area's Agency on Aging, if you have one that serves your area, or contact your county social services office and ask if they can help you find the right agency to contact.

Don't let support and respite care services go to waste when you or a caregiver you know could use these services. You are paying for it with your taxes and the services are not needs (income) based.

It could be the sanity saver you need.