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Area specialist to chat about caregiving

November 18, 2008

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Marilyn Thomas, caregiver specialist with the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging, will answer questions about caregiving. She will discuss the resources available in the Douglas County area. She also will chat about the difficulties that caregivers face and how family and friends can help.

Moderator:

I would like to welcome Marilyn Thomas to the News Center. Thanks for coming in to talk about caregiving. It's a topic that touches many of us in some way. I am Karrey Britt, health and environment reporter, and will be moderating this chat. First, can you tell us about the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging and the services it can provide for caregivers?

Marilyn Thomas:

Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging is located in Topeka, Ks and we provide services to Douglas, Jefferson and Shawnee counties. We provide services to seniors 60 years and older. We contract with providers in these 3 counties to provide transportation, meals, case management. We also have information and assistance for caregivers with in-home services and respite care. These are some of our services. Our website is www.jhawkaaa.org

Marilyn Thomas:

The Family Caregiver Support Program is an entitlement program under the Older Americans Act. These services can assist the caregiver with in-home services such as homemaker, bathing and respite care. The care recipient must be 60 years of age and there are no income guidelines for either the caregiver or the care recipient. We also have caregiver support groups and coffee chats available and you can contact our website or by calling 1-800-798-1366 for further information. As the caregiver specialist, a home visit can be made to assess needs of care recipient to assist the caregiver in setting up a caregiver assessment plan. We also have a wealth of information available to the caregiver. This month is recognized as National Caregivers Awareness month and a series of information for caregivers is available to assist not only caregivers but to make our community aware of the needs of caregivers.

DennisAnderson:

I know it's hard to prepare for a personal crisis, but what are some questions I should ask my family members now so I know what to do when that time comes? What questions should they ask me?

Marilyn Thomas:

You are right Dennis, it is hard to prepare for a crisis, but you can start having discussions now with your family members. If you referring to your parents or a loved one, now is the time to ask them about legal and medical concerns. Do they have a Living Will or a Durable Power of Attorney? In a general conversation you can start by asking them what would they want in a life threatening situation and talk about their options. Making visits to the home gives you the opportunity to see what is going on and what services they could benefit from.

Moderator:

I have heard from many caregivers that it's tough to bring up the subject to their loved ones, especially parents. Any advice for those who might be spending the holidays at home on how to bring up the subject?

Marilyn Thomas:

The holidays can be a perfect time to have a conversation with their loved ones because family has gathered and in light conversation start posing those questions to your loved ones. The environment should be non-threatening and invite your loved one's honest opinions and thoughts. Do not be concerned that your loved one will not want to discuss issues or refuse your assistance. Understand that you will have to make more than one attempt to discuss your concerns with them.

Moderator:

I have written many stories about people who have cared for a loved one who is under the age of 60. Are there any local services available to them?

Marilyn Thomas:

Yes there are services for people under 60. You can contact an Independent Living Resource Center in your area for assistance.

Moderator:

Do you have an example of an agency that might be helpful?

Marilyn Thomas:

For information on resources and services for 60 years and under, call Independence Inc. at 785-841-0333 in Lawrence. You may contact Jayhawk Area Agency for an Independent Living Resource Center near you at 1-800-798-1366.

Moderator:

We will wind up this chat by letting people know what they can do to assist a caregiver. Any suggestions?

Marilyn Thomas:

The caregiver is faced with many challenges; they often cannot leave the home for extended periods of time due to care giving responsibilities. Caregivers need support and offering to bring a meal, run errands, provide transportation or just come and visit them and the loved one they are caring for can mean so much to the caregiver. We know that many caregivers provide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week of quality care to a loved one, they feel guilty for taking any time for themselves and often will neglect their own health.

Especially during the holidays, the caregiver would appreciate a visit and perhaps some assistance with the loved one. When a caregiver gets respite care, it allows them time away so they can get refreshed and return to their care giving duties. If you are a family member, acknowledge the caregiver for their dedication to your loved one and let him or her know that they are appreciated. Again, ask what you can do to help them in their care giving duties. Remember, it is difficult for the caregiver to ask for help so keep that in mind and keep asking.

Moderator:

Thanks for coming in on this cold day to share information in celebration of National Family Caregivers Month.

Marilyn Thomas:

Thank you for having me and for further information on care giving or any other service, please contact Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging at 1-800-798-1366. We have a great information and assistance department.

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