More funding for family caregiver program

Growth in its family caregiver program has resulted in Anoka County receiving an increase in federal funding.

The Anoka County Family Caregiver Connection, in partnership with the Faith Community Nurse Program of Mercy and Unity hospitals, provides outreach, counseling and consultation to caregivers and family members, caregiver support groups, in-home respite, small group respite and community education.

The county provides funding, but the family caregiver connection has also received an annual federal grant administered by the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging.

In the last three-year grant cycle, the county was awarded $60,000 each year.

On the recommendation of staff, the Anoka County Board sought a $30,000 annual increase to deal with higher demand for the program.

The county did not get quite that much, but was awarded $83,958 for 2014, an amount which is renewable for four more years through 2018.

On the recommendation of its Human Services Committee, the board Dec. 17 accepted the grant and also approved a 2014 contract totaling $13,110 with its partner in the family caregiver connection program, the faith community nurse program.

Besides the outreach and counseling to caregivers and family members, caregiver support groups and community education, the partnership with the faith community nurse program also trains volunteers to provide group and in-home respite services, allowing caregivers an occasional break.

The increased funding will allow the county to hire a new part-time, limited term Anoka County Family Caregiver Connection program assistant in the county’s community resources and volunteers unit to serve an additional 50 caregivers.

Approval of that position will be brought to the county board for action at a later date.

According to information provided to the county board by Cindy Cesare, county director of social services and mental health, in 2012, 5,778 units of service were provided, resulting in 284 seniors receiving respite and/or case management services through the grant.

In addition, 522 people attended family caregiver connection sponsored community education events, Cesare wrote in her report.

Since the current two-year grant was awarded in 2010, the family caregiver connection has had an 84 percent increase in the number of caregivers served, a 27 percent increase in services provided and a 35 percent increase in referrals to the program, according to Gayle Alexander, county community resources and volunteers supervisor.

The wait lists for The Gathering respite program averages five to six caregivers who wait an average of three to six months for an available slot, Alexander told the county board.

“Anoka County’s partnership with the Faith Community Nurse Program of Mercy and Unity Hospitals has been a great benefit,” Cesare wrote.

“The needs of the senior population continue to rise in the area of family consultation, caregiving coaching, counseling and respite care.

“Having a number of group respite sites helps meet that need.”

There are four different sites, called the The Gathering, which offer group respite services, according to Cesare.

They are Brooklyn United Methodist Church, Coon Rapids Evangelical Free Church, Zion Lutheran Church, Anoka, and Nativity Lutheran Church, St. Anthony.

Through the family caregiver connection’s in-home respite service, a prescreened and trained volunteer provides companionship for care recipients for two to four hours a week for caregivers who give 24-hour, seven-day-a-week care.

The connection also has caregiver support groups at various locations to build support, comfort and share information about caregiving issues.

These support groups  meet at same churches that host The Gathering sessions.

In collaboration with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, the family caregiver connection also offers a Powerful Tools for Caregivers class of six sessions designed to help caregivers reduce stress, improve self-confidence, balance their life, better communicate their feelings, increase their ability to make tough decisions and learn to locate helpful resources.

The Faith Community Nurse Program is supported by funds from the Mercy & Unity Hospitals Foundation through its community wellness programs.

Besides its involvement in the county family caregiver connection program, the faith community nurses offer personal health counseling, health education, volunteer facilitation and spiritual care for people of all faiths.

For more information on the family caregiver connection call 763-422-6960.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]