Governor Steve Bullock today announced a new three-year, $800,000 federal grant that will sustain and strengthen respite services in the state of Montana.
Governor Bullock was joined at an event with program recipients at the Capitol Rotunda in Helena to announce the funding that will build on the momentum that was created several years ago when the state first launched the Montana Lifespan Respite program.
“Montana’s statewide network of support for caregivers is invaluable to the health and well-being of Montanans all across our state,” Governor Bullock said. “Thanks to this federal funding, we can not only continue to help Montana families who are in need of ongoing assistance, we can provide even more support for those who serve their loved ones through caregiving responsibilities.”
The funding, awarded to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), will continue and increase the use of the respite voucher program; provide training for family caregivers, providers and volunteers; create a respite registry of trained individual caregivers; and increase outreach efforts. Without this federal funding, the Montana Lifespan Respite program would not have been able to continue.
According to DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan, caregivers tend not to seek respite services until the burden of care-giving is high and people are exhausted and overwhelmed. “All these factors stress the ongoing need for increased awareness of respite services and their benefits for caregivers,” Director Hogan said. “The program encourages caregivers to hire family, friends or neighbors they know and trust to care for their loved ones.”
Respite is defined as a temporary break for family and individual caregivers and may include in-home care, companionship or outings. The program supports family caregivers of children or adults with special needs.
Since 2015, referrals for respite vouchers are received in one location via a state contract with DEAP in Miles City. To date, the program has awarded 400 caregivers respite vouchers in 38 counties.
The program allows a self-directed, person-centered approach which gives the primary caregiver flexibility, which is especially important in rural areas of the state. The maximum amount allowed through the voucher program is $600 per calendar year. The oldest care recipient is 104 and the youngest is under 1 year. The caregivers’ age range is 24 – 97.
Participants in the program are provided access to apply for funds and receive referrals to other resources and information on how to find a respite provider if family or friends is not an option.
The program also provides eligible families with flexibility. Participants may go through an agency that employs respite providers, hire a private respite provider or use a combination of both. Some of the top reasons caregivers may need a respite break include their loved one having medical conditions such as stroke, aging/dementia, developmental disability, or an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
More than 118,000 Montanans provide an estimated $1.43 billion per year of unpaid care to help older parents, spouses, adult children with disabilities and other loved ones to live independently in their homes and communities. These family caregivers assist with bathing and dressing, preparing meals, driving to doctor visits, paying bills, administering medication, and other medical tasks—all the everyday necessities of life.
“Some provide this help sporadically and from a distance, while others are on duty 24-7,” said Tim Summers, AARP Montana State Director. “Most juggle caregiving responsibilities while also working full- or part-time, and some are still raising families.”
For more information about the Montana Lifespan Respite program go to www.respite.mt.gov.
The following Montanans shared their experiences with the Montana Lifespan Respite program:
Marni Rolston of Bozeman said her family has utilized the program for the past two years. Her 13-year-old daughter, Ida, was born with Smith-Magenis syndrome and she cannot be left home alone. Rolston said respite care provides numerous benefits to her family. The program has given their daughter a “sense of community” through a network of friends and family who spend time with her on a regular basis. In turn, the program provides temporary relief for Rolston and her husband as the primary caregivers. In the simplest terms, the program has been a lifesaver, Rolston said. “It’s had a very powerful impact in our lives,” she said. “It’s given our daughter some independence and a chance to grow relationships, but also helped us recharge our batteries as well. The program has been invaluable for our family.”
Dirk Sichveland of Philipsburg is the sole caregiver for his wife, Rachel. Due to various medical conditions, she is confined to a wheelchair. The daily caregiving duties have taken their toll on Dirk. However, thanks to the respite program, he is able to take an occasional break, and it helps provide peace of mind. “It’s just comforting to know that when I’m gone for a day to two there is someone in the home to care for my wife in case of a medical emergency,” he said. “It’s certainly a program that has helped us immensely over the past several years."
Kandis Franklin of Helena shares a similar story. Her son, Sunna, has epilepsy and other medical conditions that require significant medical care and time. She said respite care has added significantly to her families’ quality of life. Franklin said Sunna has been able to build relationships with caregivers that can meet his needs and in turn she has been able to find time to do self-care activities with friends knowing he is being well cared for. “Sunna has loved the special time he’s had with respite care providers, and they have added so much to his life at a time when he could have just felt isolated and different from other kids,” she said.