Much has been written in recent years about the dangers of burnout for busy, hardworking people. But one group is often left out of the discussion: family caregivers. Many of these individuals wouldn’t say that what they’re doing is work; they’re taking care of a beloved senior because they want to. But caregiving, though rewarding and heartfelt, can be exhausting. If you’re in this situation, know that you don’t have to go it alone. There are many resources available to help caregivers in Asheville, both in the area and at the national level.
Asheville is known for its beautiful sights, but its kindhearted residents don’t get enough recognition. Asheville caregivers don’t have to look far to find all kinds of resources. One search resource is Land of Sky Regional Council, whose mission is “to provide creative regional solutions to relevant and emerging issues in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties.“ The council runs its Family Caregiver Support Program for those taking care of seniors age 55 or older, including those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of memory loss. One of Land of Sky’s programs is Project C.A.R.E. (Caregiver Alternatives to Running on Empty), which specifically aims to help caregivers of those suffering from dementia. Starting in April, Land of Sky’s Family Caregiver Support Program will partner with AARP to host a free six-week class called Powerful Tools for Family Caregivers.
There are also several local opportunities for caregivers in Asheville to take a break from caregiving while making sure their loved one is well cared for in their absence. Jewish Family Services of Western North Carolina hosts Elder Club, which offers socialization and group activity three times a week so that caregivers can have an afternoon to themselves. MountainCare offers daily programs at multiple levels of care, as well as overnight respite options so that you never have to leave your loved one home alone if you’re away for more than a day. If you’re looking for a fun afternoon out and want to include a loved one who has dementia, First Baptist Church of Asheville hosts Memory Cafes the third Thursday of every month.
There are also plenty of great resources that can come to you, including Good Neighbor Services, which provides support including running errands and picking up groceries or prescriptions, and Mission Health, which offers home health services for seniors who need medical assistance at home. For even more local resources, check out Dementia Friendly WNC’s community engagement calendar, which includes activities for both seniors and their caregivers; the Council on Aging of Buncombe County’s programs page; and Land of Sky’s full Caregiver Resource Directory, which lists support groups specifically for issues such as Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Parkinson’s in addition to programs like those mentioned above.
Caregivers in Asheville can also benefit from national resources. Caregiver Action Network (CAN) has a plethora of resources available to caregivers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need someone friendly to talk to, you can contact CAN’s help line for free. You can “find honesty through anonymity” on CAN’s online community for caregivers across the nation. CAN also offers its fairly comprehensive Family Caregiver Toolbox, which contains everything from advice on how to talk to aging parents to informative video series.
There are also national resources aimed at caregivers of specific populations. Help for Alzheimer’s Families offers a thorough online class on how to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The organization has also developed a free app for on-the-go dementia care advice. The Well Spouse Association (WSA) seeks to offer support to spousal caregivers. There is currently no local WSA group in North Carolina, but the website is home to articles on spousal caregiving and caregiver resources that are broken into categories such as encouragement and financial options.
The most important thing for caregivers in Asheville to keep in mind is that burnout is never the only option. Caregiving is a labor of love, but it is still a labor. There’s no shame in asking for help, and no shortage of helpers. And if the time comes to consider transitioning your loved one to a senior living community, we at Arbor Terrace of Asheville are ready and willing to join your support team.