Local family caregivers getting help with a new program

Friday, December 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A new government funded program called National Family Caregiver Support is giving in-home caregivers a temporary break from their responsibilities.

Many people have lobbied for years for a program to support caregivers' needs. News on Six reporter Shea Garrison talked with a Muskogee family who is receiving some much-needed relief. Every Thursday at 1:30 PM, Doris Wininger takes her mother Thelma to have her hair styled. Everyday life is on a pretty tight routine for Doris and Jim ever since they decided to take in Thelma three years ago. "I felt the need for some help. So, I visited with Linda Miller and when she told me about this new program which I had never heard of and to me it was an answer to prayer."

A new program called National Family Support provided by the Eastern Oklahoma Development District, or EODD, offers $400 per quarter to in-home caregivers to pay someone to care for their loved one's. This gives people such as the Wininger's an opportunity to spend time together doing things they enjoy. Thelma isn't sure about it, but she's willing to give it a try. "Well, I kind of wonder about it but I don't mind, if they pick somebody out then that's alright with me." The caregiver coordinator says this program is receiving overwhelming response because 80% of caregivers are family members or friends. Linda Miller, Caregiver coordinator for EOOD: "I've had them crying, I've had them laughing, just you would not believe the stress that's been lifted off of them." The program allows the caregivers to pick someone they know and love to care for their loved ones while they're away.

The program also offers counseling, training and support groups for caregivers. The Wininger's say this isn't a way to run away from their responsibilities because they love caring for Thelma, it's just a chance to get back a part of their lives they gave up. "You just need for a break, just like someone with a two-year-old or three-year-old you just need that mental time, that down time that you don't have to be responsible for someone else." Doris plans to take advantage of her time alone and her time with her mother because she knows time is precious, and once it's gone, you can never get it back.

You may qualify for the new program at no cost if you are caring for a loved one who is 60 or older, or if you are 60 and older and raising a grandchild. For more information, call 1-800-211-2116 and you will automatically be transferred to an office near you.