Bruce Briggs, second from left, and his daughter Jaide, left, talk with Amber Briggs and Molly Hull at the Soldotna Professional Pharmacy booth Saturday during a Caregiver Appreciation Day event at the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Caregivers come in many forms, from children who have switched roles with their aging parents, to those caring for someone who is chronically ill, disabled or unable to care for themselves.
They provide a vast array of emotional, financial, medical, social, homemaking and other services on a daily or intermittent basis, but in trying to do it all while also maintaining a career, home and life of their own, caregivers can get burned out.
There is help for them, though, as many learned during the Caregiver Appreciation Day held Saturday at the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center.
The event, presented by the National Family Caregivers Support Program, featured several workshops about caregiver support and training, and close to 30 booths of caregiving organizations and programs.
"Caregiver burnout is common. What they do is very hard and very demanding, and so it's important that they know all the information and resources available to help them," said Patricia Stringer, program coordinator for the National Family Caregivers Support Program.
"So, we tried to get as many vendors as possible in one place so the caregivers in this area could see what's available in this community," she said.
Stringer said her organization provides services to more than 300 caregivers spread throughout the peninsula.
"From Seward to Soldotna to Homer to Seldovia and Port Graham, we help people all over," she said.
Jim Fisher of Soldotna provided care for his wife for years before she succumbed to cancer, and he said he remembers how demanding providing constant care was.
"Caring for someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a tough thing," he said.
Fisher said he found respite at the senior center, where he came for a change of pace and a good meal.
"There's no question coming gave me refuge, and a chance to relax and a boost to keep on going. That's why I came today. To tell other caregivers to do the same. They can bring the person they're caring for for an outing, and they can come for relief themselves," he said.
Nancy Stanper of Soldotna also is a caregiver. Since June, she has been providing care for an uncle diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
"Before my uncle was diagnosed, I never knew about any of these organizations before, because I never had reason to," Stanper said.
"But, that's why events like this are so important. People can learn what's out there, so they are prepared for the future," she said.
Jody Pritchard, project director for care coordination at the Nikiski Senior Citizens Center, said getting in touch with the community through events like Caregiver Appreciation Day is as integral as providing care services.
"Outreach is very important, because that's how you get people to be aware. Most people don't realize they need help until it becomes overwhelming for them and their own physical or mental health begins to decline. We want to get to people before that happens," she said.
Pritchard added that when it comes to caregiving programs and services, the Kenai Peninsula is above average. She attributed this to several factors.
"The caregiving organizations here collaborate with each other well and are creative and innovative when it comes to existing on limited funds," she said.
Renee Graham, senior service director at Frontier Community Services, agreed with Pritchard in regard to the peninsula's organizations and personnel.
"Compared to the Lower 48, we have a lot to offer, and our people really believe in going above and beyond," she said.
Connie Stevens, the outreach coordinator for the Soldotna caregivers program, said Saturday's event was well received.
"I'm very happy with how it turned out. The participants have been great, and the caregivers and general public that showed up got some valuable information," she said.
"From the response we received this year, I'm expecting next year's event to be even bigger," she said.
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