Cracks in the summer care net explained came about thanks to a KIRC reader. They found themselves in a situation involving care, or lack thereof – and reached out. For clarification on the issue, I reached out to a local caregiving resource center for answers.

Hot fun in the summer time….

Music fans, you are already humming along to that the classic Sly & The Family Stone song aren’t you? (You’ll thank me when you wake up at 3AM with that kicking around in your head).

But, for some family caregivers who might be accessing supplemental services from a state and/or federally funded agency, that ‘fun’ may be limited to ONLY the song.

A Northern California and Butte County-based friend of mine recently reached out and was in quite a panic. The in-home care workers scheduled for several hours a week to help care for his elderly father, told him they would not be returning. There was no more money to pay them.

What? How could that be? Why didn’t someone tell him in advance? What was he going to do? His father still needed help?

HE needed help! H-E-L-P!

Short-term respite

To help this family caregiver get to the bottom of the situation, I reached out to the agency handling his services.

It’s called PASSAGES, and it offers numerous support and educational programs to the community within the care space.

personal note: I used the services of PASSAGES while caring for my mother. It provided me additional layers of coverage – a few extra hours a month in addition to the help I already had in place. At the time, I worked an early-morning shift that required me to be in bed at 5:30pm, as the alarm went off at 12:30am. I was able to have a care provider in place for just three hours in the evenings, to get mom dinner, teeth brushed, evening meds and put to bed. It was a life-saver for me

Jessica Melchor/Passages & Julia Yarbough

I talked with Program Services and Education Specialist Jessica Melchor about how PASSAGES works.

‘The Passages Caregiver Resource Center is designed to empower caregivers in their role through education and support. It offers a connection with a Family Consultant for specialized information and a resource library of education and workshops,” said Melchor.

Hands-on help

As a family caregiver I can tell you, tapping into resources that can offer you a short break can be like a life-raft tossed to a person gone overboard a ship.

“Short term respite is available to alleviate the stresses of providing care,” Melchor told me.  “It gives the caregiver a break but is not intended to supplement long-term care in the home. A caregiver must be enrolled in the Passages CRC program to receive respite.”

My friend was getting that help and it was much appreciated. I told Melchor the angst that individual was experiencing and asked her why services would have come to a halt.

To unravel this summer care net explained a nutshell?  MONEY.

Dollars and sense?

Fiscal year budget dollars to be exact. How many clients can be helped and for how long depend on available funding.

Melchor explained that PASSAGES respite services are funded through Federal dollars as part of The Older Americans Act (OAA) which allows for the administration of The Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) carried out by Area Agencies on Aging (AAA).

In this case, that agency for Butte County is PASSAGES.

The California Department of Aging is the agency leading all of this at the state level. Available funds are determined by the legislature and governor-approved fiscal budget. California’s budget year runs from June 30 – July 1.

To review the full 2021-2022 California State Budget click here

The dollar amount allocated is based on a projected amount determined from how many people used the service the year before.

So what happens if funding runs out before the end of the fiscal year? Services can’t resume until the legislature passes a new budget and funds are distributed. In many cases, that means the money is gone (summer months) before the next budget is approved.

NorCal services

Courtesy: California Dept. of Aging

PASSAGES currently serves 10 counties in Northern California (Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity). However, Melchor says not each of those counties offers a local program to deliver such services.

We’ll dive into the realities of elder care when living in rural communities in future posts

“This last year, we had a significant increase in clients, so funding did end earlier than expected. We believe it was partly pandemic related because more people were at home. We saw an increase in folks reaching out to us,” said Melchor.

What should & can families do?

When families apply for assistance, Melchor says they are told the program is short-term and should not be considered a replacement for other care.

“We reiterate at the beginning that our funding is limited. Sometimes caregivers can be overwhelmed so we make sure they understand that,” said Melchor.

“We try to advise them to establish a caregiver support system; whether it’s a family member or neighbors or maybe church groups. We give them ideas and options of having additional support in the home.”

Take action now

This case is a good lesson for all of us – to start thinking NOW about what your care support circle might look like.

Ask yourselves some questions:

  1. What is the Area Agency on Aging in my region?
  2. Who of my family or friends might be able to assist if needed?
  3. What services/funding/programs am I eligible for?

For those of us with boots-on-the-ground experiences of providing full-time care to a loved one, sometimes what we need is just extra manpower.

Are you a family caregiver or know someone who is? What plan-of-attack do you have in place to provide respite for yourself or a loved one and what advice can you share with others?

Would love to hear from you – shoot me an email at [email protected].