By Rusty Bradshaw
Anyone who has been the full-time caregiver for a family member with a chronic disease. such as dementia or cancer, knows how stressful and difficult it is to take care of someone 24 hours per day, according to Hugh Duncan, Sun City Community Assistance Network board president.
Now some Sun City caregivers have a chance to get a break as CAN and Sun Valley Lodge officials teamed up to provide the new resource for low-income Sun City residents. The Free Respite Care program provides temporary institutional care at Sun Valley Lodge, 12415 N. 103rd Ave., for dependent elderly, ill or handicapped persons, providing temporary relief for their usual caregivers.
Both Sun Valley Lodge and Sun City CAN are 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations.
Launched in March 2017, the program has had some interested persons inquire, but so far just two caregivers have taken advantage of the program.
“It was nice to get a break during some intense times,” said Kevin Martin.
He and his wife lived with his mother at the time, but now they rent a home next door. His sister also lived across the street and helped care for their mother, but she was away July-September. Mr. Martin was also caring for his ailing wife.
“She (his mother) seemed to do well there (Sun Valley Lodge),” Mr. Martin said. “There was some initial disorientation, but she quickly got used to the new surroundings.”
Michael Fahey, Sun Valley Lodge executive director, believes the program is a great opportunity for qualified caregivers.“I think this program can be utilized more than it is,” he said.
Mr. Fahey said the second caregiver to use the program had a similar experience as Mr. Martin.
The program is not a substitute for the family providing care, only a temporary options to give the caregivers a break, according to Mr. Duncan.
“Even though many families take great joy in providing care to their loved ones so that they can remain at home, the physical, emotional and financial consequences for the family caregiver can be overwhelming without some support, such as respite care,” Mr. Duncan said. “Respite care provides a break for the family caregiver to rest and recharge their batteries.”
The patients of those caregivers selected for the program receive three days of free respite care at Sun Valley Lodge every three to six months, depending upon the availability of funds. Sun Valley Lodge officials are giving Sun City CAN a reduced daily rate for two of the three days and Sun Valley Lodge will provide the third day free of charge, Mr. Duncan explained. If necessary, Sun Valley Lodge will provide transportation to and from the patient’s residence, he added.
“Anyone caring for someone with dementia, cancer or other chronic disease knows just how difficult and consuming it is to care for someone you love,” Mr. Duncan said.
He cited a book titled “The Thirty Six Hour Day” that conveys the stress of coping with the day-to-day challenges of caregiving. But Mr. Duncan also knows first-hand, having cared for his wife prior to her death. It was that experience that prompted him to donate $10,000 from her estate to initiate the program.
“I just thought this was a fitting way to honor her,” Mr. Duncan said.
To qualify for the program, residents must be a full-time Sun City resident; be a primary caregiver for an elderly, ill or handicapped patient for the past three months; have monthly income less than $2,010 (single) or $2,707 (married); have less than $13,300 in savings.
“This is just one of the great programs Sun City CAN has to offer for residents,” Mr. Fahey said. “We have a wonderful partnership with them.”
Mr. Fahey, who had a passion for caring for the elderly even while in high school, has been in the industry 40 years, the last 17 with Sun Valley Lodge.
To apply for the Free Respite Care program, call the Sun City CAN office at 623-933-7530 or stop by the office at 10195 W. Coggins Drive and pick up an application.
While Mr. Duncan’s contribution got the program its start, to continue it needs continued infusions of cash. Donations for the Free Respite Care program are accepted at the CAN office. Checks should be made out to Sun City CAN and earmarked “Free Respite Care.” Other donations to CAN may also be directed to the Free Respite Care program.
The new program adds to the CAN stable of community service offerings. CAN officials are always looking for new ways to provide services to those in need, according to board member Rick Gray.
“Our president (Mr. Duncan) has been a strong proponent of this program and it will be a tremendous asset for those who need it,” he said. “It is just one example of how Sun City CAN is always looking out for those in our community.”