Family members can use the respite hours for vacation, appointments, shopping and more. “It’s nice to be able to have a break,” Ms. Marth said. These breaks are more than just relief from the stress and hard work of caregiving, as important as that is. The extra help can mean a family can extend the time a loved one is kept at home.
That time at home is often made safer and more healthful for everyone involved as a result of respite care. According to data published in 2002 in “Evaluating and Reporting Outcomes: A Guide for Respite and Crisis Respite Program Managers,” (ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center, 2nd ed.), “Respite services directly contribute to a reduction in the likelihood of child abuse and neglect, and in the likelihood of removal of children from their homes; and contribute directly to the safety of children receiving care.”
The study noted, for instance, that of 430 families surveyed concerning crisis respite care, 20% of caregivers would have had to leave their child(ren) with an inappropriate caregiver if Crisis Respite had not been available; 2% of caregivers would have left their child(ren) unattended if Crisis Respite had not been available: and 82% said that the availability of Crisis Respite reduced the risk of harm to their child(ren) to a “very” or “extremely” high degree. A 2007 study by Evercare, a hospice and palliative care organization, showed that of those caring for Alzheimer’s patients, 49 percent reported trouble sleeping and 37 percent experienced new or worsening health problems as a result of caregiving.
These are not rare or isolated incidents. Ms. Marth recalled a statement made by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, speaking for the Governors’ Caregivers Support Coordinating Council before a Senate committee in 1998. Ms. Carter said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: Those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”
There are five respite care programs administered by Delmarva Community Services, which dispenses payment to caregivers hired by the families. “[The families] may not be able to pay them,” DCS Respite Care Coordinator Donna Wilson said. Ms. Wilson noted that “there is a huge demand” for respite care on the Eastern Shore.
Two programs are for individuals with developmental disabilities, funded by grants from the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration and the Maryland Department of Human Resources (DHR). These programs serve individuals who acquired lifelong disabilities prior to the age of 22.
Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester counties are served by these programs. There is currently a waiting list. Individuals with functional disabilities are served in a grant through DHR. Caregivers may receive up to 100 hours of respite per fiscal year. There is a sliding fee scale based on income. Counties served are Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset and Talbot.
National Family Caregivers Support Program serves those caring for an older individual or a grandparent over 55 who is caring for a grandchild under age 18 unless the grandchild is disabled. There is no sliding scale. This program offers up to a $500 reimbursement to caregivers with limited supplemental support as well.
This program through Delmarva Community Services, Inc. is only available to Dorchester County residents. Eligible applicants in other counties are referred to the appropriate agency in their county. United Way Alzheimer’s Program serves those who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. There is no sliding fee scale. Caregivers may receive reimbursement up to $800. This program serves Dorchester and Somerset counties. The fiscal year runs July 1-June 30.
All programs require an application. Call Delmarva Community Services at 410-943-1106 or visit www.dcsdct.org for more information.