Lutheran Services to help caregivers

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lutheran Services for the Aging
SALISBURY — In 1991, Bob Evans began having difficulty using his left arm. Now, after 20 years and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, Bob’s wife, Katharina, is his full time caregiver.
“People just don’t realize the strain,” said 76-year-old Katharina Evans. “Some days you’re tired, you don’t feel well, but you go on. I haven’t felt this kind of stress since Bob was in Vietnam. He did two tours and I was alone caring for our three boys. This is just as stressful. It is like being a parent again except you are so much older. I praise the Lord for giving me the strength and the help we have received from the program.”
That’s the Family Caregiver Support Program, which has provided in-home respite for the Evans family as well as caregiver education for Katharina. It was through the program that Katharina first heard about Abundant Living Adult Day Services and learned that group respite was available to her and to Bob through the Veterans Administration.
Lutheran Services for the Aging is now the Rowan County agency administering the N.C. Family Caregiver Support Program, which is funded by the National Family Caregiver Support Program. Established in 2000, the program provides states with grant monies to help caregivers care for their loved ones at home for as long as possible.
“Taking care of someone can bring great joy and satisfaction,” said Mary Ann Johnson, Lutheran Services’ director of community relations. “But it can also be difficult. The FCSP supports families and informal caregivers who are trying their best, but need a little help.”
That help comes in the form of a wide-range of services for eligible family caregivers available at little or no cost, and includes everything from information and referral services to in-home and group respite.
The Family Caregiver Support Program also offers services to grandparents caring for grandchildren.
According to Johnson, studies consistently show that such support services can alleviate caregiver stress, depression, and anxiety, enabling caregivers to provide care at home longer. “The FCSP cares for the caregiver. That little bit of extra support can often help families postpone or prevent assisted living or nursing home placement,” she said.
Until 2009, when Lutheran Services for the Aging launched its geriatric care management services, the organization’s focus had been on residential services such as those offered at Trinity Oaks and Lutheran Home at Trinity Oaks, and on adult day care at Abundant Living Adult Day Services. The organization calls this program another step in its efforts to respond to the community’s needs.
“We want area citizens to age happily and safely in whatever place they call home,” Johnson said. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to help make that happen.”
The Family Caregiver Support Program was previously administered by the now-defunct Rowan Senior Services. Rufty-Holmes Senior Services and Rowan County Social Services supported Lutheran Services for the Aging in its efforts to administer the program.
“For decades, Lutheran Services for the Aging has been helping seniors live a more abundant life,” Rowan County Social Services Director Sandra Wilkes said. “Lutheran Services for the Aging is well-positioned to become the lead agency for the Family Caregiver Support Program. The program complements other services that have long been provided very successfully by LSA.”
It’s been a godsend for the Evans family.
When first told about Abundant Living, Katharina didn’t even consider it. “I was sure Bob would never go,” she said. “But they encouraged us to try it and I was shocked! From that first day he loved it! He likes them, they like him, and I know he is well cared for there.”
While Bob is at Abundant Living, Katharina rests, cleans house, “piddles” in her flower garden, schedules her own doctor appointments or spends time with friends.
Like other caregivers, she has one goal: to keep her 82-year-old husband at home as long as possible. “There’s so little he can do for himself. Sometimes I feel I become sharp and aggravated with him. I don’t want to ever do that. The program is a godsend. I don’t even want to think about what life would be like without it.”
Barbara Garwood, director of Lutheran Services’ Abundant Living Adult Day Services, is leading the program. To learn more about it, or to apply for services, contact Garwood at 704-637-3940.
Rowan County Family Caregiver Support Program at a glance
• Funded with a $48,930 grant from the National Family Caregiver Support Program.
• Oversight by the N.C. Division of Aging and Adult Services.
• Serves Rowan County residents.
• Eligible participants are caregivers of any age providing care to an adult 60 years of age or older; caregivers of any age providing care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or a related brain disorder; caregivers age 55 or older who are raising a child related to them (cannot be birth or adoptive parents) age 18 or younger or with a developmental disability.
• Services in Rowan County will include: information, assistance, counseling, training, group and/or at-home respite, and supplemental services and supplies.