Family program cares for senior caretakers
By Ling-Mei Wong
The Family Caregiver Support Program of Boston makes sure caretakers of seniors take care of themselves. It is housed at Boston Senior Home Care and also serves Ethos and Central Boston Elder Services.
Caretakers are usually family members, who neglect their needs when caring for a loved one. “When the loved one passes away, the caregiver feels lonely and isolated, and they haven’t been taking care of their health,” said Tia Nguyen, Family Caregiver Support Program Manager for Boston Senior Home Care.
The program offers information and resources for caregivers of seniors older than 60 or people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It helps caregivers navigate medical and social services for their family member, along with helping them find time to relax. Through a yearly grant, caregivers can pay for services, such as buying necessities for their loved one or reimbursing someone for watching their loved one while they take time off. Classes cover communication tips with medical professionals, rehabilitation therapy with an Alzheimer’s coach and healthy eating.
“Our mission is to ensure that culturally diverse elders and their caregivers have the necessary supports in order to remain living at home and in their communities,” Nguyen said. “So, one of our goals this year is to reach out to communities that may not be aware of all the community resources available to them due to cultural or language barriers. Many immigrant communities such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Haitian believe that caring for their family is their duty and will often resist the assistance of elder services.”
Chinese families can be large and when a parent falls ill, one sibling out of many will be expected to be the main caregiver. “In my role as a caregiver advisor, I help the caregiver sort out their priorities and encourage them to receive the support they need,” said Suki Mok, caregiver advisor for the Family Caregiver Support Program of Boston. “We find resources and provide assistance to help ease their burden.”
Mental illness has a stigma and is frequently misunderstood. “We encourage families if their loved one has memory loss to talk to a doctor and see if it’s related to cardiovascular issues or Alzheimer’s,” Nguyen said. “They should not write it off as part of the aging process and not address the needs of the elder.”
While many services tailor to seniors, there is little support for caregivers. “Sometimes the caregiver may be a senior themselves, a 60-year-old caring for an 80-plus mom,” Nguyen said. “They’re tired and not getting the education they need on Alzheimer’s. We also work with many families where one elderly spouse is providing all the care for their spouse. These families really touch our hearts and we want to give them as much support as possible.”
“Caregivers should take advantage of this program and get the help they need,” Mok said. “When you take care of yourself, everybody benefits.”
This post is also available in: Chinese