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New program offers family caregivers support and assistance

May 2, 2003

North Dakotans caring for family members or friends age 60 or older and seniors raising their grandchildren or other young relatives may benefit from the North Dakota Family Caregiver Support Program. Provided through the Department of Human Services, the federally funded program is intended to connect caregivers with helpful resources, information, support, and respite care.

"North Dakota's family caregivers help older people with disabilities to stay in their homes. This enhances the quality of life for many seniors and also reduces government spending for nursing home care. We need to support caregivers, and this program accomplishes that objective by helping caregivers take better care of themselves," said department Executive Director Carol K. Olson.

According to Linda Wright, the director of the department's Aging Services Division, over 16,000 North Dakotans are caring for loved ones with disabilities on either a full-time or part-time basis. She said caregivers often help with medications, meals, household chores, or personal care. While caregiving can be very satisfying, it can also be exhausting, she said.

"Without adequate support and resources, caregivers can and do experience burn out, stress and depression. Another group of caregivers, seniors who step in to raise grandchildren or other young relatives, also face challenges. The family caregiver support program helps caregivers access available services and obtain respite, if needed," Wright said.

A study conducted for the Aging Services Division by North Dakota State University found that most caregivers in the state are married women between 65 and 74 years of age. Twenty-eight percent have an annual income of $20,000 or less, and about one-third spend more than 20 hours per week providing care. Wright said many caregivers are uncomfortable accepting financial help or other services, even though they worked hard all their lives and supported services to help others.

For information about the North Dakota Family Caregiver Support Program, an Older Americans Act service, contact your regional human service center. Information about this and other programs and services for seniors is also available on the Department of Human Services' Senior Info-Line at (800) 451-8693 or on-line at www.ndseniorinfoline.com.

Contacts by Region:

Bismarck: West Central Human Service Center, Judy Tschider, Caregiver Coordinator, (701) 328-8888
Devils Lake: Lake Region Human Service Center, Kim Helten, Caregiver Coordinator; and Donna Olson, Regional Aging Services Program Administrator, (701) 665-2200
Dickinson: Badlands Human Service Center, Mary June Gaffrey, Caregiver Coordinator, (701) 227-7500
Fargo: Southeast Human Service Center, Lesli Ossenfort, Caregiver Coordinator, (701) 298-4500
Grand Forks: Northeast Human Service Center, Raeann Johnson, Caregiver Coordinator, (701) 795-3000
Jamestown: South Central Human Service Center, Ruth Derheim Monson, Caregiver Coordinator, (701) 253-6300
Minot: North Central Human Service Center, Laurie Gotvaslee, Caregiver Coordinator, (701) 857-8500
Williston: Northwest Human Service Center, Karen Quick, Regional Aging Services Program Administrator, (701) 774-4600


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