By Laura Latzko
Caregiving can be trying mentally, physically and emotionally.
For these individuals, respite care means downtime, the chance to see friends or complete errands.
Since July, Duet: Partners in Health and Aging’s Meaning and Hope Institute and the Arizona Caregiver Coalition have been offering respite vouchers of $1,200 a year for family caregivers of veterans and veterans acting as caregivers in Arizona. They are funded by the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services.
Justin McBride, interim senior director of services for Duet: Partners in Health and Aging, say there are over 500,000 veterans in Arizona. That spells out the need for services, such as respite vouchers, for veterans and their caregivers.
“I’m a veteran myself. I served in the United States Marine Corps,” McBride says.
“I know that veteran families — and military families in general, they tend to face some of these situations like dementia, traumatic brain injury and other conditions that result in somebody needing to be a family caregiver. Veteran families face that more often because of the service that their loved one did. We want to make sure there are respite vouchers specifically set aside for veteran family caregivers that they can utilize.
“Especially in the veteran community, being a veteran myself, we have a lot of pride in taking care of ourselves and our family. There may be a hesitation to reach out and ask for help. There’s no shame in asking for support.”
To qualify for the respite program, caregivers need to apply and be screened.
The vouchers can be used for adult day health centers, in- and out-of-home respite care, emergency respite care and caregiver training.
“They get to pick what that is, whether it is a neighbor, a friend or a professional agency,” McBride says.
“They pick the respite provider. We can talk to them about more details if they have never used respite.”
McBride says the program can be especially helpful to those who wouldn’t be able to afford respite otherwise.
“Many people that could utilize respite may be on a fixed income or they’re retired,” McBride says. “So, utilizing some of the funds they have set aside may not be practical for them. So, that’s what these funds are there for, to help make respite a reality.”
To be eligible, a caregiver has to be actively taking part in an educational program or caregiver support group.
“I think support groups can be very helpful, connecting with other caregivers in an environment where everybody gets it,” McBride says.
“They are looking to support each other or sometimes have a place where they can vent. Other caregivers have probably used other services, so they can share about different resources or tips and tricks for managing their stress as a caregiver.”
McBride says oftentimes, caregivers won’t reach out for help or may be unaware that respite care is available. He says this is important to their well-being and allows them to be better caregivers.
“I think a lot of caregivers, and people who don’t identify as a caregiver, they are just doing what they said they would do when they made their vows,” McBride says.
“Or they are committed to their parent. The way I look at it is most people are onboard with a community taking care of itself. A family caregiver asking for support from the community is the community chipping in to help, just like they are doing their part. The caregiver’s life matters.
“We are there to support them with their well-being and provide them with the opportunity to have a break because sometimes they don’t get a break. That can be really isolating just staying in the house day after day. Not being able to talk with friends or family or have a normal conversation that isn’t about caregiving. Just to have someone come in or to take the person they are caring for to an adult day health program so that they can be a person for a day or for a few hours or connect with other caregivers is really important.”
Duet, a nonprofit founded over 40 years ago, offers in-person and virtual services for homebound adults, family caregivers and grandparents caring for their grandchildren.
Its main office is in Phoenix near Metrocenter, but it offers in-person programming throughout the Valley.