Sept. 7, 2004 In addition to serving as the spokesman for the Human Services Department, Monife Stout cares for her grandmother, 87.
"There's not enough help in terms of outside assistance because it is too costly," she said.
Stout does have some outside help, but she is still left to coordinate the effort. She also participates in the Human Services Department's Family Caregiver Support Program.
The program is open to anyone who cares for people over age 60 no matter what their age. It provides respite care up to 120 hours a year, individual counseling to caregivers, support groups led by professional therapists, and access to the Human Service Department's resource room. The room contains a wide variety of materials that provide information to caregivers.
Director Arleen Evans-O'Reilly said that the support groups are important because participants know they are not the only ones dealing with this problem.
"And we embrace them as people. We take time to acknowledge their needs," she said.
Evans-O'Reilly said that people who organize care for off-island relatives are also welcome to participate in the program.
"We really encourage anyone that's a caregiver to join the program," she said.
Stout said that many caregivers do not take care of themselves, which can lead to illness and even death.
In St. Thomas/St. John, about 60 people receive help from the program. In St. Croix, the number stands at 70.
The program has room and money to help even more people, so the Family Caregiver Support Program in the midst of an outreach effort. It's targeted grandparents and guardians over 60 who have full custody of children under 18.
The Family Caregiver Support Program comes under the Human Services Department's Senior Citizen's Affairs Division.
Evans-O'Reilly said the U.S. Administration on Aging provides over $200,000 a year to fund the local program.
The federal government enacted the Family Caregiver Support Program in 2000 when it amended the Older Americans Act. The program is designed to help families that juggle jobs, children and care of elderly relatives.
For more information, call Laura Pascal in St. Thomas at 774-0930, ext. 4120. In St. Croix, call Evans-O'Reilly at 772-9811.
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