Caring for caregivers
Alzheimer’s Association offers Respite Care Assistance Program
While being a caregiver for a loved one can be a rewarding experience, research has shown caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia experience physical and mental health issues, high stress, as well as impacts on their employment, income and financial security.
For this reason, the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Michigan Chapter is spreading the word about its Respite Care Assistance Program, which offers scholarships to help caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia pay for respite care that can provide them with a chance to rest, run errands, work or do other needed activities.
“Caregiver burnout is defined as: A state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. This is a result of inadequate self care, long hours, and often in a constant state of stress,” Alzheimer’s Association Greater Michigan Chapter Regional Director Jake Bilodeau said in an email. “Respite care is the opportunity to relieve and hopefully prevent that caregiver burnout and ‘recharge your batteries.’ You can’t take care of a loved one if you are not taking care of yourself.”
Through this scholarship, caregivers can receive a one-time $500 scholarship to go toward respite services. The services can include care such as day programs, in-home care or overnight respite that can be provided by a family member, friend or agency that the scholarship recipient can hire.
“We would like people to know that our respite funds can be used at the family’s discretion,” Bilodeau said. “Some caregivers have used the funds to help pay for weekend stays at assisted living facilities and others have used the money to pay a neighbor, friend, or volunteer to provide a much-needed break.”
To be eligible for a scholarship, the service must be provided in the area in which the person with dementia resides; the applicant must be providing the majority of care for the person with dementia and the caregiver must not have previously received a Respite Care Assistance Program scholarship, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
It’s important to offer these opportunities for respite, as almost 75% of the 16 million-plus caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia report being “somewhat or very concerned about maintaining their own health since becoming a caregiver” — and a third of caregivers say their own health has gotten worse due to caregiving responsibilities, according to a report from the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Time away from caregiving responsibilities is essential to the well-being of caregivers” and helps “reduce stress and improve the quality of care provided by caregivers,” Respite Care Assistance Program information states.
For those who are interested in the program, Bilodeau emphasized that applications are accepted on an on-going basis and the local Alzheimer’s Association office has “staff available to answer questions and assist with the application process.”
“There is no deadline for applications, we review requests on an ongoing basis. Typically an application can be reviewed and approved fairly quickly,” he said. “If a caregiver is willing to sit down with someone from the association, we can ensure that all of the paperwork is complete and ready for review.”
The application process requires a completed respite care assistance application; a completed W-9 IRS tax form and a signature on vendor form; documentation from a physician stating the person has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
The program typically works as a reimbursement program, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. After the services are used and paid for, the recipient can submit the receipts and forms to the Alzheimer’s Association for reimbursement up to $500.
The program is funded through private donations and grants from service clubs as well as other community foundations.
Anyone interested in learning more about receiving respite funds can contact the local Alzheimer’s Association office, which is located at 309 S. Front St., #233 in Marquette, at 906-228-3910.
Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.