Caregivers play an essential role in the lives of many seniors, and they wear many hats. From dietitian and bill payer to housekeeper, taxi driver, and emotional support provider, caregivers give so much of themselves to helping a loved one.
The Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that 44 million Americans provide unpaid support to seniors and adults with disabilities. Given the high level of responsibility and the frequent lack of preparedness and training, caregivers often forget to take care of their own health and well-being, which in the long term can result in health issues, depression, and burnout.
In Citrus Park and the surrounding area, caregivers have several resources available to help lighten their workload and teach them the best ways to provide care to others without losing sight of their own needs.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a Caregiver Support program tailored to those caring for veterans. Services include a six-week online Building Better Caregivers course, the VA Caregiver Support Line (1-855-260-3274) with monthly presentations on topics of interest to caregivers, and the Peer Support Mentoring program.
The majority of caregiver services are web based, so contact a caregiver support coordinator at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital (813-972-2000 ext. 5140) to learn about events, classes, and support groups in the Tampa area.
Florida Department of Elder Affairs Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative
The Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative (ADI) provides services to assist caregivers of adults who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other memory disorders. ADI services include:
- Caregiver respite services, including in-home, adult day care, emergency, and extended care
- Case management
- Specialized medical equipment and supplies
- Caregiver counseling and support groups
- Caregiver training
In Tampa, these services are coordinated through the Senior Connection Center or by calling the Elder Helpline at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337).
Alzheimer’s Family Organization
The Alzheimer’s Family Organization (AFO) provides support services and educational programming to caregivers and families of those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia living in Hillsborough, Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sumter counties.
AFO provides a wide variety of caregiver services and education programs, including local support groups for family members and caregivers who want to learn more about Alzheimer's disease and coping skills.
AFO also organizes free special events such as Caregiver Learning Day, which features two to three speakers on Alzheimer's or related topics and includes breakfast and lunch. The June event in Hillsborough county will feature three speakers, including Director of Behavioral Health Outreach Elizabeth Statzer, who will discuss what caregivers need to know about the Baker Act, and signs and symptoms of mental health issues versus dementia.
Alzheimer’s Association — Florida Gulf Coast Chapter
The Alzheimer’s Association provides support services for people caring for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease as well as those who are recently diagnosed with dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association’s resource library includes help for caregivers that addresses not only how best to care for the day-to-day needs of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but also everything from maintaining caregiver health to financial and legal planning for caregivers.
Tampa-area caregivers who want to learn more about how to succeed in their role can attend a free Caregiver College class or one of the other educational offerings hosted by the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. You can find a list of upcoming classes here.
Senior Connection Center
The Senior Connection Center provides information and services to seniors and their caregivers in Hillsborough and four nearby counties. Caregivers can call the Elder Helpline (1-800-96-ELDER) to find information about local resources such as respite care and day programs, or to get help with referrals and Medicare.