Older adults and caregivers of older adults have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19. In an effort to remain safely distanced from others, caregivers and their loved ones have experienced social isolation, food insecurity and financial insecurity. And as they spent more time confined at home, they also became more aware of safety issues in their homes.
To help address caregiver issues that have either arisen or become more obvious during COVID, the Centralina Area Agency on Aging Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) was granted funds through the CARES Act. These funds were allocated to provide financial relief to caregivers and their families with greater flexibility than previous funding. CARES funding also allowed staff to provide case management services to assist in setting goals for caregivers and to ensure that they benefitted from the program in more ways than just financially.
Dale Wooten, a FCSP client and Iredell County resident, is not only an older adult, but is also a caregiver for his wife, Pam, who is recovering from cancer. His decreased work hours due to COVID created a financial burden, leaving their family struggling to afford needed home and medical supplies to aid in Pam’s daily life. The flexibility of the CARES funds allowed Centralina’s FCSP staff to purchase grocery store gift cards, feeding tubes, nutritional supplements and other medical supplies that the family needed. The program was also able to pay for respite care so that Dale was able to pick up additional hours at work and even take some time to relax. Dale shared that, “These funds got us through that rough time, and it helped us tremendously. We are so grateful for this program.”
Mecklenburg County residents, Mrs. and Mr. Sifford, received services through FCSP that helped them in an entirely different way. Mrs. Sifford is an at-home caregiver for her husband who is affected by dementia. Like many older adults, their goal is to remain living at home independently and safely. As the Siffords spent more time at home, the weak spots in their kitchen flooring became harder to ignore. Centralina’s FCSP was able to assist the family by using the funds to repair the floor and put down new solid flooring that enabled them to continue living in their homes safely without mobility issues being exacerbated by an unstable floor. The Siffords were also able to utilize remaining funds for respite care to provide additional companionship for Mr. Sifford, while giving Mrs. Sifford free time for herself.
Before and After Photos: Sifford Flooring
The flexibility of the CARES Act funds, along with creativity of staff, created a unique program that was able to address needs that had previously been overlooked with traditional funding sources. The feedback from the clients has been overwhelmingly positive and the program improved stress levels and the quality of life for over 50 caregivers across the region.
Written by Katie Ballard