January 12, 2010

USA: HOPE program offers training for caregivers for elderly

. KNOXVILLE, Tennessee / Knoxville News Sentinel / Society / January 12, 2010 By Kristi L. Nelson, Health Reporter Veronica Gibson, right, walks with her mother Carmen Zarate to the workout facility at Parkview, a senior-living community. Gibson has gotten training for her role as caregiver from the Helping Others Provide Exceptional Care program. Photo by Wade Payne It was the little changes that her family first noticed. Carmen Zarate, 78, lost interest in housework, even though she’d always kept a neat house. She began to have problems with her balance. From time to time, she would forget details of her remarkable life as a bilingual teacher — the years she studied in Mexico and Spain, the trips with husband Tim to Greece, Europe, China. By the time Zarate was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last fall, her husband and their daughter, Veronica Gibson, knew she couldn’t stay in her house, which the Zarates bought a decade ago when they moved from Michigan to be closer to Gibson. Upkeep and maintenance were just too much for Tim Zarate to handle, even with help from Gibson and her husband. And there were safety issues: the bathroom, steep stairs. The couple moved into Parkview, an independent senior-living community near Gibson’s home, and Carmen Zarate began attending Concord Adult Day Enrichment Service, a weekday program that provides social contact and supervision for impaired senior adults. Carmen Zarate has dinner with her daughter Veronica Gibson at Parkview, the senior community where Zarate lives. Photo by Wade Payne Assistant director of Frank Strang Senior Center for two years, Gibson thought she’d know about everything available to help her parents in their new situation. It turned out there was a lot she didn’t know about. Luckily for Gibson, as she and her father faced their new roles as caregivers for her mother, Senior Citizens Home Assistance Service piloted its first HOPE (Helping Others Provide Exceptional Care) caregiver training program. Attending six weeks of classes last fall, Gibson learned about assessment programs and other resources, devices that could help her parents with daily tasks, and what types of services are covered by Medicare. Her father learned about the progression of Alzheimer’s and emotional issues. The training helped them know “what’s coming down the pike,” Tim Zarate said. “We just want to prepare for things. I don’t want to wait until the day I need help.” The National Family Caregivers Association estimates more than 50 million Americans are family caregivers. That includes more than 591,000 Tennesseans, who in 2004 (the most recent year available) provided 634 million hours of unpaid care worth $6.3 billion, the organization said. “As our population is aging, we’re ending up having a whole lot more elderly people who need care,” and nursing homes are “very expensive,” said Janet Witucki Brown, a University of Tennessee College of Nursing researcher. “Less than 5 percent of them are in nursing homes. The rest are either in their own homes or in the homes of family members.” Brown has spent 10 years studying caregivers, whom she calls a “hidden population” that becomes isolated as caregiving consumes their time, energy and resources. “Over and over, I am struck by the fact that these people are doing this with so little resources,” Brown said. “They don’t know what’s available. … Once you get into caregiving, it’s so time-intensive and so exhausting” that it’s hard to go find help. Brown and fellow researcher Shu-li Chen are evaluating the HOPE program, which next starts on Thursday, Jan. 14 (and has openings). They hope the sessions will evolve to be “specific to the needs of caregivers in this area of East Tennessee,” Brown said. “Family caregivers are the backbone of the care that’s being given to our older individuals. We need to do everything that we can to help support them.” Diane and Walter Frisbie attended HOPE training shortly after moving to Knoxville from Indianapolis to care for Walter’s 93-year-old mother and 86-year-old aunt, who had lived together in Kentucky for 30 years. They bought a home and helped the sisters find a condo nearby. The couple and their daughter, who already lived in Knoxville, help with home maintenance, errands and transportation. “Our goal right now is to keep them in their own home as long as we possibly can,” Diane Frisbie said. HOPE alerted them to local resources and showed them ways to remodel the sisters’ home for safety, along with teaching them how to get their wills, medical powers of attorney and other legal papers in compliance with Tennessee law. “We were lost as far as where to go for what” before the training, she said. [rc] Kristi L. Nelson © 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.