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Caregivers in San Diego county number over 650,000, and it's taking its toll on them. We hear about resources and support available to them - financially and emotionally.

November 22, 2011 1:07 p.m.

GUESTS

Roberto Velasquez, Southern Caregiver Resource Center

Anthony Martinez, caregiver for his mother who suffers from dementia and diabetes

Related Story: What Support Is There For San Diego's Caregivers?

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: Showing care and concern toward family members is a big part of what the holiday season is all about. But there are people in San Diego who show the most intense concern for family members 30065 days a year. They are the care givers. There are an estimated 650,000 of them in San Diego County taking care of sick and elderly friends and relatives. Throughout this month, the southern care giver resource center is providing free training to help care givers. Joining me now are my guest, Roberto Velasquez is with the southern resource care giver center. Welcome to the show.

VELASQUEZ: Thank you

CAVANAUGH: And Anthony Martinez is a care giver for his mother who suffers from dementia and diabetes. Welcome.

MARTINEZ: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Let me start with you. Give us an idea, if you would, of how you care for your mom each day.

MARTINEZ: Caring for mom requires amount of reminders, a lot of reminders. For example, in the morning, we start off with checking her blood sugar, meal preparations, clothing, combing hair, different things through the day.

CAVANAUGH: How much time would you say that you spend per day taking care of your mom?

MARTINEZ: Wow. Actual care, like I say, it starts off in the morning, there's meals, there's the pills, checking blood, washing, keeping up the home.

CAVANAUGH: Sure.

MARTINEZ: Doctors appointments when there are. So it's a full-time job.

CAVANAUGH: It's an ongoing thing. How did you become care giver for your mother?

MARTINEZ: It started for me three years ago, it started with my dad, which we recently lost. It's been a year this month. It started with dad. He was the same. A kidney transplant and a dementia patient. After dad passed, it's so weird how this happens. Not knowing you'd ever know taking care of my parents, let alone one after another mom developed -- I seen it coming. You see those things. And sure enough, after dad passed, a month after, it really hit her.

CAVANAUGH: The dementia and the inability to take care of herself fully?

MARTINEZ: Correct. Her stage of it right now is a lot of just the memory. The past is great. But right now, five minutes ago, two seconds ago? Hate of reminders.

CAVANAUGH: Roberto, how typical is Anthony's story?

VELASQUEZ: Well, it's very common. We have an aging nation. And as the population gets older, people are developing -- more at risk for developing chronic disabling conditions, including Alzheimer's or related dementia.

CAVANAUGH: Why are we seeing so many people? There are 650,000 estimated care givers in San Diego County. Is that because of the aging population or are there other factors included in that?

VELASQUEZ: It's primarily because of the agings Mr.. By 2030, there'll be as many people over the age of 65, as there are under the age of 18. So our population is growing. And the older you, the greater risk you are for developing these illses. In our country, we have 78 million baby boomers. In 2008, they started turning 60.

CAVANAUGH: Exactly.

VELASQUEZ: We're definitely seeing that as well as having populations that are getting older and developing other diseases like heart disease or diabetes. And other conditions that lend them to ongoing care as well as related dementias.

CAVANAUGH: In recent years, I've been reading about how the state has cut back on in-home health services. And of course the economy has been tough for a lot of people. There's not a lot of money to pay for people to take care of your relative or your family member who is -- needs some help. So I would imagine that also affects the number of family members who are actually stepping up and taking care of their kin.

VELASQUEZ: You're absolutely right. The reduction in programs, whether they be federal or state, has really gone down over the last several years. In 2009, southern care giver resource center received a cut from one of our funding sources which was through the State Department of mental health, going -- a huge cut. Membership services we had funding for were not eliminated, but they were trimmed back quite a bit.

CAVANAUGH: Tell us what the southern care giver resource center is and what services do you provide.

VELASQUEZ: Southern care giver resource center is a nonprofit private organization in San Diego. We've been around since 87. We turned 25 years in January, and we're celebrating on February 11th at the San Diego Marriott in Del Mar. What we to is provide family care givers with comprehensive services, support services, an accessment care planning with license plated clinicians who have experience working with older adults, diseases, as well as care giver emotional issues. We provide support groups, education and training, information and referral services as well as a resource lending library. And then finally we also provide respite care for emergent needs. Somebody needs to go to a support group, and they don't have anybody to stay with their family member, we can provide them with respite.

CAVANAUGH: And that respite care is so important. Talk to me a little bit about that, Anthony. What you described to us seems like, OKAY, I could handle that. But it's sort of relentless, isn't it?

MARTINEZ: Yes, it is. And just as Roberto was saying, the respite care, one of the resources that I've been able to utilize through southern care givers, being here today is -- I'm using respite time. They're providing respite time. I've gone to several workshops for the southern care givers, they provide care for that. But also the respite care -- of course I enjoy helping and being out and sharing a story, if I can help somebody else. That's what I'm put here on this earth to do, I feel. But also as you mentioned previously, taking care of ourselves, the care giver. That's something we forget about. I did and didn't even realize it.

CAVANAUGH: Right. You know, it occurs to me there are probably some people listening who are care givers at home right now or perhaps they're at work and they have to run home to take care of a family member during their lunch break. If you have a question, and you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call. 1-888-895-5727.

I have heard that a lot of family care giving falls on the shoulders of women, actually. We had Anthony here who's showing us that it's not all women. But a lot of women feel sandwiched between taking care of their own families, their children and husbands, and also taking care of mother, fathers, elderly aunts, etc. Talk to us a little bit about that.

VELASQUEZ: You're absolutely right. The majority of the family care givers are female. About 67% of care givers are female. And I think a lot of that has to to with societal pressures and the woman being more of a nurturing individual who the family typically thinks, OKAY, the woman is going to be the one taking care of my loved one with an ailment. But it is true. And it's stressful because women today are working as well. Women today are raising children. Women today are helping support the house hold. And now all of a sudden our primary care givers for somebody -- so the pressures, the emotional aspects are very impactful. It's estimated that up to 70% of family care givers develop clinical depression.

CAVANAUGH: So it's crucial that they learn how to care for themselves as they're giving care to others. If I were to contact the southern care givers' resource center, what kind of lessons, what kind of classes and workshops might be available for me?

VELASQUEZ: When you call southern care giver resource center, are the unique thing with our organization is that you will be immediately talking to a family consultant who will follow you through your journey as a family care giver. In other words, you don't have to tell your story over and over and over. You immediately work with a licensed clinician. Then they will help you develop a care plan. And including in that care plan, assess your need. If you need more information about how to communicate with somebody, let's say, with dementia. They'll refer you to one of our classes or to a class in the community. We partner with a number of different agencies that work with us to provide educational programs or a support group for example. Maybe you're in need of putting together powers of attorney. We can refer you to legal counsel that will consult with you.

CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, all of these classes are free; is that right?

VELASQUEZ: That is correct.

CAVANAUGH: This is a nonprofit organization. Where do you get your fund something

VELASQUEZ: We get funding from a number of sources. Through the State Department of mental health, which has been reduced quite a bit. We have a grant through aging independent services through the family support program. And we get private foundation grants as well as we turn to the community for donations and corporate sponsorships.

CAVANAUGH: I want to talk a little bit about one of aspects of care giving that people don't talk about a lot, and that is how expensive it can be. Talk to us a little bit about the economics of care giving.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, it does get expensive. And it gets overwhelming. For example, my situation, I was working when all this started. It took me three months to decide what to do. Do we put dead somewhere? No, we can't afford it. But first of all, for me, and my family, it wasn't about putting him somewhere. It was, like, I can do this. This is how I can thank you for giving me a great life. Now I'm taking care of my dad. But the financial part, yes, I stopped working to do this. I chose to. I'd do it over again, as I am. But you need different supplies. The adult diapers there's so many --

CAVANAUGH: Prescription medicines

MARTINEZ: They're diabetic, so that's a lot of test strips. Exactly. The medications. It does get hard. ! I read in some of the material about the care givers' resource center, that some people are concerned about spending all of their retirement income in actually caring for their elderly relatives. Does that happen a lot?

VELASQUEZ: Yes, one of the biggest challenges that people contact our organization after they've decided they need some help, is the financial aspects of care giving. How am I going to pay for this? What kind of resources are available? How do you become eligible to Medi-Cal? Those are the kinds of questions that people definitely come to our office and our consultants will help them work through some of these issues.

CAVANAUGH: So you can actually take someone and actually give them financial counseling too when it comes to care giving?

VELASQUEZ: We can orient them and help them identify where the areas are that they need to learn more about. And one of the things about the southern care giver resource center, you hear that saying, you give a man a fish, he can eat for the day. You teach him how to fish, and he can provide for his family. And that's what we do at southern care resource center. We teach them for lack of better words how it fish. So we develop care plans, we help them identify what are the resources that can help them, and we steer them in the right direction because our counselors are so experienced, so knowledgeable with the roars, and they know a lot about things that care givers normally might not know, like, you know, for example what are the limits for Medi-Cal ******, and things of that nature

CAVANAUGH: You alluded to the fact there might be other options for you to pursue for your farther and mother, but you wanted to be at home with them to care for them. Can you tell us what has been the most rewarding aspect of the care giving experience that you've been on?

MARTINEZ: The rewarding aspect, wow. It's knowing that I'm doing something for someone, that someone is mom and dad, who loved me so much and gave me a great life that I couldn't buy them a car, I can't go out and buy them a new house. And that's the reward, knowing that I'm doing the right thing. I pray every day, am I doing the right thing? Where am I supposed to be? This is rewarding to know that I am doing the right thing.

CAVANAUGH: What advice might you have for other people who are trying to make this decision or find themselves in the middle of caring for a loved one?

MARTINEZ: You know, you have to -- one of the most important things I feel is to -- for some people you have to try till you get to this point is to understand what the illness is, accepting what the illness is, accepting that it's your parent. Or your loved one. It could be sibling. Accepting and understanding the disease or illness. Once you can do that -- I care, I care about people, I care about my parents. So understanding and accepting what it is just makes all that come out so easily. It is a job. I'm -- I'll be truthful. But it comes so easy.

CAVANAUGH: I wanted to ask you in closing, Roberto, how can people find out more about the southern care resource center?

VELASQUEZ: 8008271008, our 858, 268-4432. Or www.caregivercenter.org. And we also do a lot of outreach in the community. Our director of education alhand raallar, she does community presentations in services at churches, at community centers, different locations throughout the county to try to spread the word about southern care giver resource center. And how we can help families.

CAVANAUGH: We'll link to that website on our website at KPBS.org. I've been speaking with Roberto Velasquez, with the southern care giver resource center, and care giver, Anthony Martinez. And thank you both thank you so much for speaking with us today.

VELASQUEZ: Thank you

MARTINEZ: Yes, thank you.