L-R, Janice Wyner, Pat McMahan, Kathy Perrella

The Family Caregiver Support Program at NSES

The Family Caregiver Support program is a statewide program that recognizes the critical role family caregivers make in the lives of their loved ones. North shore Elder Services’ Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) empowers caregivers by providing them with information, education, support, and services to help alleviate stress and improve the quality of life for the entire family.

Kathy Perrella has been the Family Caregiver Support Specialist and Options Program Manager at NSES for the past 25 years. Also in the role of Family Caregiver Support Specialist and Options Advisor is Pat McMahan who has been with NSES for 14 years. Janice Wyner, with NSES for 20 years, assists Kathy in facilitating our support groups as well as teaching the Matter of Balance program.

We asked Kathy Perrella to explain the Family Caregiver Support program.

Who is eligible for this program?

“Family caregivers taking care of an adult age 60 or older, or caring for any adult with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or a related memory disorder are eligible for the Family Caregiver Program. Any caregiver age 55 or older who is the caregiver for a young relative under the age of 18 can receive services through the FCSP.  In addition, the caregiver of a disabled person between the ages of 18 and 59 years old is eligible for the program.”

Does the care recipient have to be receiving services or enrolled in a program at NSES in order to work with the Caregiver Specialist?

“Initial consultations are free to residents in the communities we serve and are scheduled at our office in Danvers, in your home or at another location convenient for you. We do not have eligibility restrictions for caregiver phone consultations.”

What services are available?

“Our Caregiver Support team provides resources, education, guidance, training and empowerment to those caring for older adults and people with disabilities. These services are at no cost to the caregiver.”

  • Provide resources: caregiver assessments, one-on-one assistance with resources and options. The program will help to assess the caregiver’s needs, identify options, and provide referrals to community-based service providers.
  • The Family Caregiver Program offers ongoing training programs such as The Savvy Caregiver Program. The FCSP hosts educational programs designed to address the complex issues surrounding dementia care several times yearly.
  • Caregiver Support Groups help caregivers learn that they are not alone and how important it is to take care of oneself.
  • Advice to families free of charge in one’s own home or at their workplace or a convenient location in the community.

What is the benefit of a support group?

“There is an educational and an emotional benefit. One has the opportunity to learn more about a disease or a particular issue in a group setting.  The emotional benefit to participating in a support group is very important. You learn you are not alone. You can share your thoughts in a confidential and safe environment with others who are experiencing similar emotions and experiences. You can find out about techniques that others may have tried that may help you.”

Will the Caregiver Specialist offer a family meeting when family members are facing challenges in making decisions in agreement?

“Families can always request a meeting to help sort out issues or to hear suggestions. When there is family conflict, we will suggest an outside referral to a conflict resolution professional, a mediator, or a counselor.”

Will the Caregiver specialist offer guidance when long-term care decisions are necessary?

“We will provide a list of long-term care facilities and explain the process involved. The responsibility to visit the facilities and make decisions belongs however to the family.  We can discuss MassHealth (Medicaid) but will refer to an elder law attorney who can expertly guide someone through the financial piece of the process.”

What is the best piece of advice you would offer a caregiver?

“You do not have to have all the answers but you can make yourself as knowledgeable as possible. Ask questions. Ask for help and accept help when offered.  You want to be aware of all the resources that may be available to you as a caregiver and for the person receiving care.”

“It helps to be open to trying different approaches to caregiving. If you try something and it does not work, know that you have other options and an opportunity to keep trying.”

Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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