Added support provided for family caregivers

Pat Ditter uses a break from caregiving to work on her quilts. Photo by Bob Riler.


Bob Riler
For Pierce County ADRC

Ditter is not alone.  According to the National Family Caregivers Association, more than 29 percent of the U.S. population provides care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend.

Like most other caregivers, Ditter couldn’t do it alone.  “Caregiving can get pretty lonely,” she said.  She made a call to the Aging and Disability Resource Center (253-798-4600) and now gets regular help from the Family Caregiver Support Program, a service of Pierce County Community Connections.

Eight hours each week a caregiver from Lutheran Community Services gives her a break and takes the responsibility off her shoulders.   The Family Caregiver Support Program helps pay for that service allowing her to do things, like quilting.

Now, more families who are caring for a loved one will be able to receive a break like that thanks to an increase in funding provided to the Family Caregiver Support Program.  The program provides services that support and sustain the caregiver–spouse, relative or friend–who is caring for a disabled adult 18 years of age or older.

The Washington State Legislature has allocated a 30 percent increase in funding for the program in Pierce County.  The program helps unpaid care providers cope with the stresses and demands of giving care and helps care recipients remain in their own homes rather than have to move into more expensive formal caregiving settings.

“There’s tremendous logic to this increase in funding,” said Connie Kline, Social Services Supervisor with Pierce County.  “A little bit of support provided to a family can prevent or delay people needing much more expensive support.  The Family Caregiver Support Program is a wise investment and a special help to families working to keep their loved ones at home.”

Currently, the program supports 372 Pierce County families.  The enhanced funding will allow an additional 167 families to receive help.

“Eight hours doesn’t seem like a lot but it does wonders for my spirit,” said Ditter.  She had to learn how to accept that help.  “The first few times Joe came and I said to myself, ‘Now what do I do?’  Eventually I learned just how much there is to do.”

The Family Caregiver Support Program provides a number of important services designed to help the caregiver: information about and connection to needed resources and services; education to caregivers on diseases and planning; minor adaptive equipment; help with problem solving and coping skills; therapies to relieve stress and support health; and respite, the kind of help that keeps Ditter going.

Caregivers who receive help from the Family Caregiver Support Program cannot be receiving Medicaid services.  Some services are available on a sliding fee scale while others are available free of charge with a limited maximum allowance per caregiver.

For a few hours each week, Ditter can focus on quilting, a hobby she picked up after retirement.  “John is very proud of what I have produced,” she said.  “Whenever people come over, John points to my quilts and says, ‘Pat did that!’”  And that praise does wonders for her spirit.

More information is available by calling the Pierce County Aging and Disability Resource Center at (253) 798-4600 or (800) 562-0332 or by visiting