More MS news articles for Jan 2002

Delta couple gets state grant to identify caregiver needs,1002,7247%257E306920,00.html

Monday, December 31, 2001 - 4:59:26 AM MST

A Delta Junction corporation has been awarded a state grant to identify the need for services to caregivers of people with Alzheimer's and related diseases.

Kenneth and Judith Farrow of Alpha Omega Life Care Inc. are actively seeking information on family caregivers providing in-home assistance or care to those suffering from Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's, multi-infarct dementia, Creutzfeld-Jakob and other diseases, as well as other conditions that may cause or mimic dementia, including head injuries and AIDS. The service extends from the Canadian border to Fairbanks.

The 18-month grant period begins Jan. 1

"Finding them is the first thing," said Judith Farrow, project director of Alpha Omega Life Care. She said she is meeting with organizations and media to help spread the word and she will be distributing leaflets. "We're trying to draw them out of the woods to let them know someone is available to help them."

Once those families and other informal caregivers in need of assistance are identified, the nonprofit organization will help identify resources, and offer training so the caregivers can better care for their affected family member.

The Farrows can offer a variety of support, from help soliciting mini-grants through the Alzheimer's Resource Agency of Alaska and funding for special needs, to finding and establishing support groups--both traditional and online.

The grant application specifically targeted rural areas, according to Kenneth Farrow, executive director of Alpha Omega Life Care. Farrow described his corporation as a local-based social agency whose mission is to advocate for those in need. He and his wife are both personal care assistants, certified care coordinators and managers of Medicaid

waivers. The Farrows have also been advocating a Meals on Wheels program in the greater Delta Junction area.

This particular grant goes beyond both the Delta area and senior citizens. Its focus on Alzheimer's and related diseases has no age limitation, encompassing a broad category of dementia-type diseases. While the Farrows don't know how many families need services, they know the need is there.

"It's an under-served area in almost every respect," Kenneth Farrow said. "It is in almost all rural areas. The population centers get the services."

That leaves families in rural areas without a support system, without training and without respite care--deficits the Farrows sees Alpha Omega filling with the state grant funds.

"We're exploring ways to get this information to them," he said.

Not only is it a problem because families are often far from population centers, they have often been thrust into being caregivers by a desire to keep a loved one out of an institution.

"Some people, if not most, have drifted into this," Kenneth Farrow said.

Most are not trained as caregivers and lack the knowledge they need to provide the service. As they provide care, they can experience burnout and frustration. Then there is the stigma attached to some of the diseases and conditions.

"Part of the support will be to overcome these attitudes," Farrow said.

A retiree who worked in child protective services, Farrow knows that families some times see an offer to help as interference. He emphasized Alpha Omega's tools are education, support and respite.

"We're only there to make sure they have everything thing they need," Farrow said. "My first thrust is information and referral." After that, it's follow-up, he said, to make sure the family hasn't fallen into a crack.

Over the 18-month course of the grant, the Farrows said they hope to impact the lives of the caregivers and their patients, so that the caregiver relationship is prolonged, keeping the affected persons in their communities as long as possible.

"I'm sure we'll be evolving as it goes along," Kenneth Farrow said.

To contact Apha Omega Life Care Inc., people may call 895-4104 or 895-2221.

Victoria Naegele is a free-lance writer who lives near Delta Junction.

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