Last month I participated in a brown bag forum in Council Chambers that focused on caregiver issues. It was held as a special meeting of the Housing, Human Services, Health & Culture committee chaired by my colleague Councilmember Nick Licata.
I was surprised to learn that King County’s services for caregivers—available through the King County Caregiver Support Network—are underused.
Here are some of the support services offered for unpaid caregivers:
- Training for specific scenarios, such as caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, or for a long-distant parent, or getting yourself support.
- Fact sheets on day-to-day care, such as managing medications, dealing with incontinence, or finding assistive technologies that might help your loved ones.
- Information about support for kinship care, if you’re raising a grandchild or child of another relation.
- Referrals for respite care, a service where another trained person or staff at a facility provide planned, short-term care (a few hours to a few days) for your loved one so you have some time away from caregiving.
- Referrals to local resources, such as legal services, financial assistance services, support groups, and specialists in navigating health care systems who can meet your specific needs.
- Crisis counseling for people in immediate emotional distress.
- Services specific for caregivers for those with developmental disabilities.
If you know anyone who might benefit from these services, please, let them know. As I said, the services are underused—ADS-funded services reach about 2,300 caregivers per year—less than 5% of the County’s primary caregivers. There is support out there. Please help get the word out.
For me, the forum was quite informative, but it was also very moving. I listened to the stories of the 12 caregivers around the table, including some of my colleagues. It was touching to see some familiar faces in a different light.
Councilmember Licata watched his father, who was in his 80s, take care of his mother after she was stricken with Parkinson’s disease and bedridden for the final years of her life. Nick’s wife was the primary caregiver for her son, who suffered a brain injury in a car accident when she was just out of law school. All their lives were overturned as Nick’s wife postponed a new career and the family adjusted to the idea that the boy would have a different kind of life than they’d envisioned.
Councilmember Rasmussen shared that he cared for his partner during the last year of his life. He didn’t say a lot, but reading between the lines I know that was extremely difficult – emotionally, physically, and financially stressful and exhausting.
I was honored and grateful to share my own story of trying to convince my father to come and live with us, and finally, when he was 90, succeeding. How while that was a difficult year, it was also one of the most cherished years of my life, having that time with him. Afterward, I got physical therapy for shoulder injuries I got lifting him in and out of cars. A small price to pay for helping my dad. I’m so grateful I had the chance to do those things for him.
As I listened to caregiver after caregiver tell their own stories, I thought of a letter Rosalynn Carter wrote recently, in which she said that caregiving is a universal subject. One of her colleagues said, “There are only four kinds of people in this world:
- Those who have been caregivers;
- Those who currently are caregivers.
- Those who will be caregivers; and
- Those who will need caregivers.”
And that’s true.
To learn more about these crucial services and the resources available, you can watch the brown bag itself on Seattle Channel.