Caregiver resource centers on the chopping block

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Vonnie Castellano gives her husband Paul a large-habdled spoon to show what kind of help and resources she gets from Del Mar Caregiver Resource Center.

State budget calls for elimination of support service for families, friends who help loved ones with memory impairment
State budget calls for elimination of support service for families, friends who help loved ones with memory impairment

The Del Mar Caregiver Resource Center, along with other caregiver resource centers around the state, are slated for elimination in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2012-13 budget.

    John Beleutz, the executive director of Health Projects Center, which oversees the Del Mar Caregiver Resource Center, said the cut could impact families in several ways.

    “We know family caregivers are at high risk for mental and physical problems,” Beleutz said. “ We try to alleviate that.”

    The Del Mar Caregiver Resource Center offers support to families in San Benito, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties for family caregivers who are taking care of someone with a memory impairment caused by such illnesses as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, a stroke or traumatic brain injury. The centers provide support to more than 12,000 caregivers throughout the state. The local agency works with 700 families in the tri-county area. It is one of 12 agencies in the state to provide services to caregivers.

    Del Mar staff members provide support in connecting families with other resources, offer support groups for family caregivers and provide such events as the Caregivers University that is coming up in Hollister on April 21. They also offer legal and financial consultation, care planning, respite care, and training or workshops.

    The Castellanos, of Hollister, have taken advantage of several resources offered through Del Mar. Vonnie Castellano cares for her husband Paul who has Machado-Joseph Disease, a progressive genetic neurological disorder that is marked by an increasing lack of muscle control and coordination, impaired eye movement and difficulty with speech and swallowing.

    Vonnie discovered a wealth of resources through her job at Jovenes de Antano. She worked as a driver, taking seniors to doctor’s appointments, when she heard about the Del Mar Caregiver’s Resource Center. She and Paul attended a Parkinson’s support group – though his disorder is different, some of the symptoms of it are similar. Vonnie has attended other support groups for caregivers and went to the Caregivers University, sponsored once a year by Del Mar.

    The services at the center are offered free of charge or on a sliding scale so that they are affordable to any client. Beleutz noted without the services provided by caregiver resource centers it may become harder for family members to care for loved ones who have such disorders as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Pakinson’s or other ailments that limit memory and cognitive capacity, to keep loved ones at home.

    “Our long-term care system isn’t people being in a nursing home,” he said. “Most are at home, being taken care of by family. If they are not able to do that, the whole long-term care system is weakened.”

    He noted that the national average cost for a nursing home is $74,000 annually, which adds burden to families and the government. The estimated savings to the state if the centers are eliminated would be $2.9 million annually. The programs already received a 72 percent reduction in state funding a few years back.

    Beleutz said that two-thirds of the funding for the Del Mar Resource Center comes from the state, but without that funding it would become even harder to raise funds from other sources as many offer matching grants. In Hollister, the Community Foundation for San Benito County and the United Way have contributed to the programs. A portion of the funding is also a match from the federal government’s Older Americans Act, which will not be met if the state eliminates the funding.

    Clients and providers are asking state legislatures to stop the cut and a petition is circulating online.

    “It’s now in hands of legislatures and folks to let them know what they think,” Beleutz said.

    The petition can be found online at www.change.org/petitions/dont-balance-californias-budget-on-the-backs-of-family-caregivers.

    For more information on the services offered by the Del Mar Caregivers Resource Center, visit www.delmarcaregiver.org

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