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Tuesday, January 15 , 2019, 11:04 pm | Mostly Cloudy 53º


Family Service Agency Launches Caring Together Campaign to Support Family Caregivers

From left, Marco Quintanar, long-term care ombudsman for the Family Service Agency; Cynthia McNulty, LCSW, FSA Senior Services Program manager; Lisa Brabo, executive director of the Family Service Agency; and Gregg Hart, Santa Barbara mayor pro tempore.
From left, Marco Quintanar, long-term care ombudsman for the Family Service Agency; Cynthia McNulty, LCSW, FSA Senior Services Program manager; Lisa Brabo, executive director of the Family Service Agency; and Gregg Hart, Santa Barbara mayor pro tempore. (Family Service Agency photo)

The Family Service Agency on Thursday announced the  launch of its Caring Together campaign, a collaborative effort responding to the extreme needs caregivers are experiencing in our community.

Caring Together aims to raise awareness among caregivers that there are resources available to help them better care for themselves and their loved ones. The goal of the campaign is to raise caregiver self-awareness and increase access to caregiver supportive services, such as Family Service Agency’s Caregiver Mental Health & Support programs. Caring Together focuses on bringing together nonprofits, businesses and agencies through the county, to understand the issues and respond to the needs of family members who are the primary caregivers to senior loved ones.

Recent data shows the impact of caregiving on families, seniors and employers and suggests the need for increased access to support for caregivers in our community. Selected statistics include:

» In Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties over 50 percent of caregivers spend 40 hours or more on caregiving activities each week.

» The challenges of caregiving can be overwhelming, with the caregivers’ psychological health being the most adversely affected with 20 percent to 50 percent of caregivers reporting depressive disorders or symptoms.

» At least one-fourth of California’s caregivers have a household income of $20,000 or less.

» There are 3,202 seniors living in poverty in Santa Barbara County (1 in 14 local seniors)

» Additionally, one study of California caregivers found that 75 percent did not know where to access support services available to them.

“By caring together, our community’s most vulnerable citizens will receive a greater quality of care,” said Lisa Brabo, Family Service Agency executive director. “Our goal is to bring the community together in support of families facing the challenges of caregiving. Sharing resources for caregivers to ‘care’ for themselves will help improve their personal health and the quality of care they can provide for their loved ones.”

The awareness campaign was announced at community briefings held in Santa Barbara and Lompoc, including remarks from Gregg Hart, mayor pro tempore, City of Santa Barbara; Bob Lingle, mayor, City of Lompoc; Barry Marks, Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council member; Lisa Brabo, executive director, Family Service Agency; and a presentation on issues and resources by Cynthia McNulty, LCSW, Senior Services Program manager, Family Services Agency.

Event attendees, representing local nonprofits, business and agencies, were provided with materials to share with their constituents to encourage caregivers to seek support and to show that the community cares about their well-being. Calls to action to the community include:

» Recognize the vital role of family caregivers in the health and safety of vulnerable seniors.

» Recognize that there may be complex emotional and psychological challenges involved in family caregiving, and that any member of the community can access support.

» Create a community of support and empathy for caregivers.

» Request caregiver outreach materials and ‘toolkit’ from FSA (more information at www.CaringTogetherSB.org).

FSA’s Caregiver Mental Health & Support programs are designed to help family caregivers recognize, embrace, and manage their role as a caregiver. Services include free and confidential individual and family counseling, group support and referral services. Caregivers learn ways to reduce stress, adjust to role changes and create ways to care for themselves.

One example is how an understanding of symptoms of aging can help caregivers adjust to the changing roles between parent and adult children: Fifty-two year-old Lucia via Nueva, who takes care of her 92 year-old mother. Lucia came to Family Service Agency with a depressed mood and frustration of not being able to understand odd behaviors her mother had begun exhibiting. She would take her mother’s anger so personally that it was affected all aspects of her life. Through the Caregiver Support Group, Lucia gained an understanding of symptoms of aging, and now has the opportunity to express herself in a supportive environment. Through the education and process work provided in the Group, Lucia has been able to go beyond her cultural norms to understand the aging process to better care for her loved one. *Note: Client name has been changed to protect confidentiality.

— Flannery Hill is a publicist representing the Family Service Agency.

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