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Care for caregivers

By Staff | Jan 31, 2020

Representatives from the North Dakota Department of Human Services visited Rugby’s Senior Citizens Center Tuesday to raise awareness for issues faced by caregivers to the elderly, adults and children with disabilities.

Caregivers and administrators from public and private social service agencies from Pierce County and other surrounding counties met at the center. The group learned about programs to help family caregivers de-stress and take care of themselves.

Mary Weltz, program administrator for the Family Caregiver Support program, said the help most families caring for an elderly or disabled loved one wanted most was simple.

“They need a break,” Weltz said.

Weltz presented information on North Dakota’s Lifespan Respite Care grant, which is designed to provide temporary care to a child or adult with special needs while the regular family caregiver takes a break to attend to their own needs.

“Basically, respite care is that short break from caregiving, and it’s the most requested service by caregivers,” Weltz said. “Eighty-five percent of caregivers are not receiving any respite services at all.”

Weltz said studies show respite care has several important benefits.

Reading a list of such benefits, she said, “It will improve family caregivers’ physical and emotional health; improve overall well-being of family; help with marriage relationships and relationships with all family members; it will help reduce the cost of hospital stays; help avoid or delay more costly foster care or nursing homes or out of home placements.”

Weltz cited research that found four hours a week “is enough of a break to make them feel like they were (getting time to themselves). We’re not talking about a huge amount of time.”

Although some caretakers use the respite hours for their own medical appointments, many use the time for relaxing activities such as a trip to a hair salon or bowling with friends.

Weltz encouraged employees of agencies providing other services to families to inform family caregivers about respite services and discuss enjoyable activities for some time away.

Weltz said North Dakota’s Family Caregiver Support program found that many caregivers weren’t aware of what was available for them.

“One of our objectives is to help increase awareness of what services currently are available to them,” she noted.

Weltz said the respite care program began as a way to provide temporary care to people with special needs in the event of a family emergency.

“What we found out was everyone thinks an emergency is something different. So, we decided this funding is available to help people to fill those gaps. It can be a planned respite need; it can be an unplanned respite need; it can be an emergency respite need,” Weltz said.

“If there’s a family who has an ability to or option to go to a Twins game this summer, but it’s not the right environment for their child with special needs, that can be an appropriate use of Lifespan respite funds. Because not a lot of programs are going to say to this family, ‘You know what? You need a break.'”

Weltz said her presentation in Rugby was the first in a series of visits to North Dakota communities to raise awareness about family caregiver programs.

“We’re going to Devils Lake tomorrow, then we’re in Larimore, then to Casselton, then over to Valley City. We’re really trying to reach some of the smaller communities and tell them what’s out there,” Weltz noted.

“I have a feeling that issues in rural communities are going to be similar. Even the fact that this many were willing to come, and people have driven here from Harvey; they’ve driven from Bottineau, so these caregivers want to (help families caring for loved ones with special needs), and we’re going to help them help (the caregivers),” Weltz added.

Information on respite care is available by calling the Aging and Disability Resource Link at (855) 462-5465, or online by clicking on “caregiver support” at carechoice.nd.assistguide


A “QSP Town Hall” followed, where attendees learned about becoming a qualified service provider for individuals with disabilities in their homes and communities. The QSPs may work in private agencies or as independent contractors within North Dakota. Information for this program is also available at the Aging and Disability Resource Link, (855) 462-5465 or online at carechoice.nd.assistguide.net.

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