Selfless. Devoted. Compassionate. Always putting the needs of loved ones before their own, and often forgetting to care for their own health and wellbeing because of their responsibilities.

Anyone reading this can pause for a minute and almost immediately think of a family member, friend, neighbor and co-worker who fits this description. They are caregivers, all too often forgotten about and, in many cases, the only person standing between a loved one and a higher level of care.

The Caregiver Support Program is offered by the Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging to provide respite and relief to a caregiver of a functionally dependent person. It is unique, innovative and versatile. Unfortunately, it is not as widely utilized as it could be, but we are continuously making efforts to help qualified individuals become connected with this amazing resource.

It should come as no shock to all of us that caregiving is one of the most stressful roles persons can play in their lifetimes. Caregivers often feel isolated, overwhelmed and scared. This program is designed to assist and supplement the caregiver role, not replace the person. The program follows a financial reimbursement model that will provide resources to cover the cost of respite care like Adult Day Service at Telespond, incontinence supplies, medical supplies, home modifications and assistive devices. We are also able to provide educational materials and resources to caregivers to help with their unique needs.

One more innovative aspect of the program allows the Aging Office to provide support for grandparents 55 or older raising their grandchildren. The program is available to others who qualify and are raising loved ones, too. Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging also offers a support group to these unique caregivers. PAST, Parents a Second Time, is an amazing group of committed caregivers who support each other and help navigate the complexities of the educational, court and health systems. They group also works closely with the Creative and Performing Arts Academy of NEPA, CAPPA, to offer respite support and education to the grand families.

The Caregiver Support Program is a reimbursement program that is readily available for those who qualify. Qualifying for the program is based on your household income. We recommend calling our office to discuss your unique situation and your eligibility. Our goal is always to assist you anyway we can, even if you don’t qualify for this program, we may have an alternative to connect you with other options.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has long championed this program and its benefits. His tireless work for older adults in Pennsylvania has helped us provide the resources and services we can offer to keep our loved ones home with us.

In Harrisburg, from our backyard, State Rep. Karen Boback is advocating strongly for reforms to make the program more accessible and less restrictive through House Bill 2684.

Work like this makes a difference in the lives we touch and change for the better each day. Please call us, tell a friend, tell a family member or share information about this program any way you can. It can only lead to something positive for a caregiver and the loved one they provide for daily.

Jason Kavulich is the director of Lackawanna County’s Area Agency on Aging. For more information on services available call 570-963-6740.

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