By Dawn M. Aerts
Iron County Today
Yes, there is a wish list for caregivers.
Local experts on aging programs estimate that up to 30 percent of adults in the Five County Area area or soon will be over the age of 65. Some of those will, or are, experiencing health issues like Alzheimer’s or Dementia-related conditions.
In Washington and Iron County, many will rely on in-home or visiting caregivers to keep track of their needs, find their medication, get them out and about, or help them take care of the little things of life. The wish list for caregivers is simple, said Tracy HeavyRunner, long-time advocate and local program director.
“I would say, instead of asking how can I help, give the family member or (caretaker) friend a list of things that you are willing to do – Hey, I can mow the lawn, or I bring over a dinner. I can stay and help out on a Wednesday night for a few hours, or I can order supplies for someone on line.”
Part of the wish list can also be found in baskets of donated items that HeavyRunner is filling for local caregivers.
“We have 34 baskets with generous donations from Intermountain Healthcare staff and others,” she said. “There are also little things (they would appreciate) like movie passes, or toiletries, office supplies to adult coloring books.”
HeavyRunner explains that The Aging and (Caregiver) Program was developed as fulfilling part of the Older American Act — designed to help seniors stay independent but to assist with a variety of resources and education.
“The Agency on Aging is one of several in Utah,” HeavyRunner said. “We work on assisting the elderly or their caregivers with resources (for both physical and emotional health). Part of that goal is to provide coaching as well as support systems for the caregivers.”
It’s the family members who are doing the day-to-day caregiving that need our help and support.
“So they have to know how to ask for help and they need to build a team around them,” said HeavyRunner of the issues. In the next few months, the Five County Association will be offering classes and outreach. “There will be classes designed to educate people on Dementia, how to cope and talk about the issue with others. And a six-session class on how to be a caregiver, (from the in-home relative, to a son or daughter who lives out of town). So it’s a full-spectrum course on how to support a loved one or a family.”
HeavyRunner believes the aging community and families need some tough conversations and timely planning.
“So there are times when family members need to ask the parent, or grandparent, ‘What if something happens to you? Who will take over? Is there a time I (should) look at long term care options? Or, how do you apply for assistance?’”
The Five County Association (FCO) Program on aging is also connected to the Rosalyn Carter REACH Program – which offers one-to-one coaching for the caregiver who is assisting someone with Alzheimer’s, or related Dementia conditions.
“We know that it’s impossible to predict the chances of a family member needing long-term care, or how long they will need in — in our area, it is usually a wife taking care of a spouse, but caregiver’s can be anyone,” HeavyRunner said.
Meanwhile, AARP estimates that the average cost of a year’s care in a private Medicare-certified (nursing home room) is $ 95,000 per year; an average in-home care cost is $45,468 a year (for 40 hours per week); and an assisted living care facility will average more than $49,000 every year.
This month, donations to the Caregiver Basket project can be brought to the Five County, Aging Programs office at 585 North Main Street.
“Basically we are trying to build support for our local caregivers,” said HeavyRunner of the baskets. “The goal is to reduce their burdens, and to support them in multiple ways.”
Photo Caption: Tracy HeavyRunner and Jerna Watson, Five County Association of Governments, are two of several staff members who are part of the Agency on Aging who support local caregivers through education, community resources, and in building a community and family team that can help seniors stay independent.