Caregivers need a break - AARP Oregon gathers ideas at June 29 meeting

By Sue Cody


Michelle LewisMore and more adults are caring for aging parents and relatives. Support ranges from providing transportation to doctors’ appointments or grocery shopping to actual in-home, round-the-clock caregiving. At any level, the responsibility is great, and with it comes stress.


Caregivers are often the very people who put their own needs last. They give and give until physical, emotional or mental stress leads to their own illness.


AARP Oregon realizes caregivers need breaks or respites to take care of themselves. The organization is visiting 14 communities around the state to collect ideas on how respite care can be better accessed and used. Representatives will visit the North Coast to gather information from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, at the Astoria Senior Center.


“We want to find out more from people what their needs are, so we can improve access and effective use of respite,” said AARP Oregon Government Relations Director Jon Bartholomew.


“What are the community needs? Is there a shortage of home care workers? We are looking to find proposals and solutions.”


Respite care can be as simple as caregivers spending time with friends or going to a movie. These short breaks revitalize the caregiver and offer a change of pace for the person receiving care.


“Respite will be most helpful if you use it before you become exhausted, isolated and overwhelmed by your responsibilities,” according to The Alzheimer’s Association. “Respite services should be beneficial, meaningful and enjoyable to both the caregiver and the care receiver.”


Local needs for caregiver respite


Many families need caregiver respite in Clatsop County, said Michelle Lewis, community programs supervisor for NorthWest Senior and Disability Services. She is pleased Bartholomew put a visit to the North Coast on his itinerary.


Lewis says the greatest need in Clatsop County is for a day center where caregivers could take their loved ones for some interaction while they shop, conduct personal business or just rest. “That would make it so much easier for folks dealing with dementia. We don’t have it available here.”


Wellspring Respite Care in Tillamook offers respite for caregivers four days a month. Staffed by a nurse and volunteers, it offers social and physical stimulation, healthy meals and attentive care for a nominal fee of $30. It is housed in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.


Having a day center takes the burden off caregivers hiring others to come into their homes, which can cost $18 to $20 an hour, Lewis says.


She says it makes sense to alleviate the stress of caregivers. Studies cited by Stanford University show that 40 percent of caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients die before their patients do, from stress-related disorders.


 Finding solutions


In-home caregivers are saving the government and health institution tons of money, Lewis says. Alzheimer’s Association reports that in 2015 more than 15 million caregivers in the U.S. provided approximately 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care.


These caregivers need support to keep from burning out. Some barriers to using respite care might be psychological, and messaging might help caregivers understand their need for a break is perfectly normal. Sharing with others in the same circumstances can offer relief.


Bartholomew says AARP Oregon would like to help identify lower-cost solutions for providing respite care through creative ideas.


“We want to ensure that Oregon families can stay together and in their own homes as long as they wish, and enjoy the independence, choice and dignity they deserve,” Bartholomew said. “We want to hear from people to help caregivers receive the help they need.”


For those who cannot attend the meeting, ideas may be shared at

Respite Community Mtg.2016.06