Caregiver Support Program still has funds available

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A program serving four Northwest Colorado counties has escaped state and federal budget cuts unscathed. In fact, program coordinator Karen McStay says she has more money than she can spend before the use-it-or-lose-it deadline on Dec. 31.

McStay is the coordinator of the Caregiver Support Program, which serves Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties and provides services and resources for people involved with the long-term care of the elderly.

CSP gives funds to caregivers so they can take a break, get educated on how to better care for an elderly person or purchase items that might make that care easier. The program can also match caregivers with a case manager who will help them find resources they may not know about.

"We are trying to preserve our community caregivers because if some people don't have a caregiver, they would be in a facility," McStay said.

She said her goal is to keep caregivers healthy and happy, especially since the closure of Valley View Manor has limited options for long-term care or even temporary respite care.

McStay says she's opened ten to 15 new cases since the nursing
home closed.

The caregiver or the recipient of the funds must be at least 60 years old.

McStay said 99 percent of the people who get funds are an elderly husband or wife caring for their elderly husband or wife or a child caring for an elderly parent.

Each recipient is limited to a $500 grant per calendar year.

CSP is funded with federal and state dollars and is a program that has been bolstered instead of cut over the past two years.

"We have plenty of money right now to spend," McStay said. "When everyone had Medicaid cuts last year, I actually got money. I do not believe I will expire my resources this year."

CSP is in its third year and did not use all of its funding last year. In 2003, $30,000 was spent helping caregivers in four counties and not one applicant was turned away.

This year, McStay still has $40,000 to spend before Dec. 31.

Leftovers don't carry over into the next year.

Craig resident Ruth Updike has spent the last four years caring for her 82-year-old husband, Vernon, who is primarily wheelchair bound.

"It gets a little draining," she said.

She gets help from a niece who comes once or twice a week, a visit that allows Updike to go grocery shopping and maybe visit a hair stylist. Someone also comes twice a week to help Vernon in the shower.

Vernon was diagnosed with Progressive Supernuclear Palsey (PSP), which affects his balance, his muscles and his eyesight.

"It's kind of crazy here," Updike said. "You get kind of down."

She said support services for caregivers such as herself are crucial.

"I couldn't handle it otherwise," she said. "I'd have to put (Vernon) in a nursing home."

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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