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Governor Proposes Cuts to Caregiver Resource Centers

Support for 12,000 people caring for seriously ill patients in their homes will be lost

old woman hands elderly seniors (stock)Nearly 12,000 caregivers across California will feel the effects of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to cut state aid to caregiver resource centers.

The cuts will touch the lives of women like Audrey, 77, who has relied on the Del Mar Caregiver Resource Center in Santa Cruz for the last five years. She cares for her husband, who has multiple sclerosis and is almost 81. She discovered Del Mar five years ago in what she describes as a period of crisis in their lives.

Audrey uses the center’s counseling services and the support groups. She’s taken classes at the Caregiver University, an annual workshop that counsels participants on issues like self-care and how to understand dementia or the other behaviors that results from the illnesses of their loved ones.

The current proposed budget calls for all state funding to be withdrawn from resource centers for a savings of $2.9 million statewide.

The proposed budget calls for a total of $10.3 billion in cuts for the 2012-13 fiscal year, with a revision due in May before the budget is enacted in June. Part of the budget hinges on proposed tax measures that could be on the state ballot in November.

There are 11 centers across the state that provide services to caregivers who are providing support to a family member suffering from a cognitive impairment or ailment, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, a brain injury or a variety of other illnesses. Del Mar provides support to Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties.

“It’s one of the only agencies that helps caregivers,” Audrey said, adding that if the services were cut, she would have to continue to care for her husband at home on their fixed income. “It’s a very difficult situation. All the help you get is important.”

In the five years she’s used the services, they have been integral to helping her cope with the stresses of caregiving.

“When I went initially, I used the counseling and went to a spousal caregiver support group,” she said. “It was wonderful. I was really in need. It was a godsend.”

JoAnn Martin, 75, has been caring for her husband for the last three years. She heard about the caregiver support group from a friend. Her husband Gordon, 84, has Parkinson’s Disease. She said he started out with tremors and walked slowly at the initial onset of his illness. As it has progressed, he has had trouble swallowing and going to the bathroom.

“It just means so much,” Martin said, of attending the support group and sharing her concerns about the future. “I started back [to the support group] in September 2011 and in that time three women have lost their husbands. You get an advance [look at] the attitude of dealing with death.”

She said though there are support groups for patients with Parkinson’s or other illnesses, she said the Del Mar Caregiver Resource Center is the only resource she found for herself.

“To lose the funding of an agency that is so powerful at being able to reach out” would be troubling for some families, she said.

She added that she does not have a computer so it is difficult for her to find information from other sources so she relies on the support group and the Caregiver University events as a primary source of information.

Since her husband’s diagnosis, he has been hospitalized for an extended period and then released into her care on hospice. He went off hospice in April 2011 because his condition remained stable. After an attack of colitis in January, he has started physical therapy.

“I can get him up and set him in a wheelchair or set him in other chairs,” she said. “But it’s constant. I have not been able to hire help.”

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