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HOW DO THEY DO IT?: Lee County Enrichment Center gives caregivers a break

Sanford Herald - 12/5/2018

Dec. 04--Sanford resident Holly Hight knows what it means to be a caregiver.

Hight helped care for her paternal grandmother Doris Thurkill who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Thurkill died in July at 86-years-old.

Hight became caregiver specialist at the Enrichment Center of Lee County in May 2016. In this position, she provides support for caregivers who spend countless hours caring for loved ones. Hight said she thought it was meant to be when the job came open.

"I was very aware of being a caregiver and especially to someone with dementia and what that entails," she said. "I thought, 'Hey, I would like to do that and help people.' "

The Herald sat down with Hight on Friday to learn about the respite care offered by the Enrichment Center.

What are your general duties?

My general duties include providing resources and information for family caregivers. They call, they walk in a lot of times. Showing them the direction they need to go. I also run the Caregiver Time Out program which is once a week. I also plan programs for caregivers, make sure speakers come in, and I run all of the support groups here. Everything to do with a caregiver, I do.

Why is that position important?

If you look at the statistics, right now we're in a period where there's more older people than there are younger people. The aging community is definitely on the rise, which means more care is being needed for those older people. Just based off statistics alone, there needs to be some sort of community resource in place for that.

What is Caregiver Time Out?

It's once a week from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and it's designed for caregivers to get a little bit of a break. They'll bring their loved one here. It's mostly people with dementia and Alzheimer's but it could just be anyone that is being taken care of. We do cognitive exercises, physical exercises. We have a snack. We play games and do crafts. It's a time for them to get that social interaction but also a time for the caregiver to go get their hair done or go to the grocery store.

Is there a common issue caregivers encounter?

Mainly just stress and not knowing what to do exactly. They have what we call "caregiver burnout" where they're at their wit's end and don't know where to turn, what to do. We try to help with that mostly.

We offer the support groups, we have respite programs. But we also have a six-week program called Powerful Tools for Caregivers and that helps a majority of our caregivers that go through the program. It's a six-week course that's designed to help with caregiver burnout and stress.

What other respite care do you offer?

We get some grant money every year that allows us to give, if you're registered in the caregiver program, up to 20 hours of someone coming into the home and looking after the person. I think a lot of people don't realize that.

What you would need to do is register with me and we need two to three days advance notice. I get in contact with some of the health care agencies in town that we have contracts with and say, "Hey, Ms. Smith needs someone to come in on Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. to look after their loved one." And it's free to them.

Do you have any advice for caregivers?

Definitely take advantage of the resources in your community and find out what is out there, such as these programs. Support groups are a big thing to me. I've seen so many people come into our support groups that were very hesitant at first and like, "This isn't going to be for me. They're just going to sit around and cry." They come in and they love it. They say they feel so much better just talking to other people. I highly recommend our support groups.

What does a support group session look like?

They all run a little different. I only run the caregiver and the Alzheimer's one. I'm kind of like the facilitator of all of them. I just make sure they do happen.

I actually facilitate the Alzheimer's one and in that, what we usually do is we start out with saying something positive that has happened for that month. If we don't have a speaker, then we'll go around and if anyone is going through something they want to talk about or get suggestions or ideas on, it's just kind of like an open forum.

How did your experience as a caregiver prepare you?

Especially when you run a support group, it helps to have empathy for what they're going through. So me running the Alzheimer's support group, (and) dealing with my grandmother, I came in knowing what they were going through, what I could say to help them or get through the process. Your past experiences definitely help you in whatever you do, but that especially gave me that extra insight.

What do you get out of this job?

I'm always getting feedback from my caregivers that shows at least a little bit of what I'm doing is helping someone. I get that out of it, just feeling like I've helped in some little way to make someone's life a little easier.

For more information, visit the Enrichment Center at 1615 S. Third St., Sanford, or call 919-776-0501.

Reach Staff Writer Noah Grant at 919-718-1229 and on Twitter at @NoahGrantHerald.


(c)2018 The Sanford Herald (Sanford, N.C.)

Visit The Sanford Herald (Sanford, N.C.) at www.sanfordherald.com

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