New program cares for caregivers

The life of a caregiver can often times be exhausting, overwhelming and heartbreaking, which is why the Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging, Family Comfort Hospice of Alabaster and the city of Calera are teaming up to give Shelby County’s caregivers a much-needed break.

The trio will host a Caregiver Resource Fair April 24 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Calera Senior Center to kickoff a new biweekly program titled Caring for the Caregiver.

Kelly Flick, M4A director of operations and programs, said the program helps caregivers understand the chronic illness or dementia disease process, end-of-life planning and legal concerns such as wills and advanced directives.

The program also provides a support network that Flick hopes will extend beyond scheduled meetings.

“It is really helpful for the caregiver to have something to connect to,” she said. “It’s nice for them to have a break and know they’re not alone.”

The success of Caring for the Caregiver in Walker County led to it being offered in Shelby County, Flick said. Research studies conducted by the University of Alabama also prompted the need for the program in light of what the medical community calls “caregiver syndrome” – a potentially debilitating condition rooted in stress, exhaustion and self-neglect.

With one out of four American families caring for someone over age 50, according to the American Academy of Geriatric Psychiatrists, Flick said the program comes at the right time.

“(The caregivers) formed a bond, and they enjoyed being together and hearing each other’s stories,” Flick said of the Walker County program. “Some in the group had been caretaking for 15 years and others were just starting. They really created a nice core nurturing group.”

Flick is confident Shelby County caregivers will forge the same bond.

The program, which lasts until July 10, is free and open to the public. Flick said free home health aid is available to caregivers who wish to participate.

To register, call 670-5770.