WXXI AM News

Caregiver Respite Program Needs More Volunteers

Dec 7, 2015

Credit freeimages.com/Bas van der Pluym

About 40 percent of those who are the primary caretaker for a loved one with dementia suffer from depression.

Many caregivers don't recognize their own stress because they are so focused on the needs of their family member with the disease.

Teresa Galbier, president of the Alzheimer's Association of Rochester and the Finger Lakes Region, says a local program that provides much-needed respite for caregivers needs more volunteers area-wide, but especially in Webster, Gates, and Chili.

Galbier says it's often easier for a caregiver to accept such help from a stranger than it is to ask another family member for support.

"Family members are sometimes reticent to impose. They don't like to lecture or tell them what needs to be done. It's often a very tender relationship with other family members."

Lifespan provides several hours of training for volunteers, but they are mostly asked to simply visit and talk to dementia patients.

"It's a very intimate, simple thing, but it's also something we need. We all crave and long for human interaction, and that's what we're hoping the volunteer can do for the person with the disease, “ Galbier said.

More than half of the Alzheimer's patients in New York State live at home, and 75 percent of those who do, live with a friend or family member who provides care.

Ann Marie Cook, president of Lifespan of Greater Rochester, said "We see that there are fewer family caregivers doing this, so more and more work is being done by one member of a family, sometimes 24 hours, seven days a week caring for a loved one with dementia."

Shirley Bowen is one of the more than 100 people who volunteer with the caregiver respite program. She spends a couple of hours a week providing relief to a Webster woman whose husband has dementia.

"I just sit and talk to her husband. He's a nice guy. He likes to talk about things in the past, rather than current events, because of his dementia."

Caregivers looking for support and volunteers interested in providing it can get more information by calling Lifespan at 244-8400 or visiting  http://helpacaregiver.org/