Finally, relief is available for the caregivers who quietly take care of their loved ones behind closed doors, often with little or no assistance.
The National Family Caregiver Support Program offered through Wyoming Senior Citizens, Inc., provides assistance to primary caregivers in North Big Horn County who care for a recipient age 60 or older who, due to a cognitive or other mental impairment, is not able to perform daily living activities on their own.
The program offers the services of respite workers, who come to the home to give the caregiver a much-needed break from the rigors of caring for a loved one suffering from a debilitating illness, like dementia for example. For some caregivers, it’s the only opportunity to leave the home because it is not safe to leave their loved one unattended. Caregivers use their break to run errands, socialize or to spend a quiet moment alone. To many it’s a breath of fresh air that would not be possible without the help of the respite workers.
Jyl Duffy and Maggie Smith provide respite services to caregivers through the private, non-profit agency. For those who can afford it, a nominal fee is charged for the service, but no one is refused service because of an inability to pay.
“Our basic focus is caregiver relief,” explained Duffy, who also acts as access care coordinator for North Big Horn County. “For some of our clients, it’s the only relief they get.”
Sharie Loegering has been using the services of the program for about a year. She looks forward to Duffy giving her a break every Thursday from the around-the-clock home care she provides to her husband Dick, who suffers from dementia caused by Pick’s disease.
“I get up in the morning on Thursday, get dressed and I’m ready to go hours before she arrives,” said Loegering. “It’s comforting to know that I can leave the home and know that my husband is safe with Jyl. She’s my guardian angel right now. At least I know I have that one day to call my own because of her.”
Loegering uses that time to do things that many take for granted like go to the grocery store, to the pharmacy, to get her hair done or to enjoy lunch and a game of cards with her friends at the local senior center.
“It’s more than a physical break,” said Loegering. “It’s a mental break, too.”
“Families are just in a bind,” said Duffy. “We are fortunate to have this program in Wyoming. Many other states do not. It allows people to stay at home longer and to postpone institutional type care as long as possible.”
Duffy said the program is very rewarding for her as well.
“I feel like I’m making a difference in someone’s life and I can’t tell you how important that is to me,” she said. “This is a job where I can help people and really make a difference.”
Loegering made it clear that she doesn’t resent caring for her loved one.
“I feel very blessed that I can take care of him,” she said. “I just need a break now and then, some time for me.”
“People look forward to us coming over,” explained Smith, who has been a respite worker in the program for three years. “It’s very rewarding knowing that I am relieving someone of stress. It’s rewarding to know that I can help them out like that.”
The program does not provide nursing care or other services. It’s a break, pure and simple, and a much needed one, at that.
For more information, contact Duffy at 548-2688 or visit www.wyomingseniors.com.
By Patti Carpenter