Caregiver SOS by WellMed offers new services for Valley caregivers

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By Dan Calderón

More than one in four Americans cares for a friend or relative who is chronically ill or disabled. That’s more than 65 million people, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving.

The figure may be even greater. Consider the people who have taken in a sick aunt or grandparent, an aging older sibling or cousin. Or the co-workers or neighbors who constantly check on an ailing widowed mother who lives on her own.

It’s a major responsibility that many families or individuals take on out of a sense of obligation, duty and love. And few of them think of themselves as caregivers.

Yet the challenges of caregivers and caregiving in the U.S. are very real. Caregivers are more likely to be stressed, more likely to suffer from depression and more likely to be in poorer health versus non-caregivers. So focused are many caregivers on caring for others that they often neglect to care for themselves. The stress of caregiving has been linked to premature aging, taking 10 years off a person’s life, according to research from the University of California-San Francisco.

And the caregiving population is only expected to grow in the coming years. With those challenges in mind, newly introduced resources are in place to support and encourage caregivers in the Rio Grande Valley.

Caregiver SOS by WellMed are resource centers now open in Edinburg and Harlingen. They offer complimentary programs designed to support family caregivers in their caregiving role, including one-on-one assistance, education, wellness activities and more.

Caregiver SOS centers commonly serve caregivers with loved ones impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic conditions such as stroke, cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease and heart disease.

Resource centers currently serve two regions of the Lower Rio Grande Valley: Caregiver SOS by WellMed at Hidalgo County, 5401 S. McColl Road in Edinburg; and Caregiver SOS by WellMed at the Harlingen Senior Center, 512 Victoria Lane, Suite 11.

All services of Caregiver SOS by WellMed are offered at no cost. Caregiver SOS By WellMed is a unique caregiver resource center offering an array of educational and support services designed to improve the health and well-being of family caregivers and their loved ones.

Support groups meet regularly and special presentations are offered on topics such as stress management, dealing with grief, caring for difficult loved ones and more.  But there are also social events – bingo, karaoke and even brunches on special occasions.

One goal is to give caregivers, who often feel isolated and alone, the opportunity to connect with others who have shared experiences.

These resource centers receive primary funding from the WellMed Charitable Foundation, a non-profit 501C3 organization that supports seniors and their caregivers with a special emphasis on wellness, prevention and living with chronic illness. The Foundation was founded by Dr. George M. Rapier III, Chairman and CEO of WellMed Medical Management, a diversified healthcare company specializing in senior care that has a growing presence in the Rio Grande Valley. At the Edinburg center, the Foundation partners with the Area Agency on Aging of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

The WellMed Charitable Foundation developed Caregiver SOS  to help address the growing needs of family caregivers, who are the backbone of long-term care in the United States.

For information about services, call the Edinburg center at (956) 683-7180 or the Harlingen center at (956) 238-0754. Leticia Sanchez staffs the Edinburg center as the Caregiver Specialist, while Gloria Miranda serves the Harlingen Center as Caregiver Specialist.

Caregiver SOS is an expansion of services once offered by Leeza’s Place in Edinburg, which also was funded by the WellMed Charitable Foundation in partnership with the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation.  When the entities agreed to end the partnership, leaders of the WellMed Charitable Foundation decided to launch its own program and add a site in Harlingen at the new Harlingen Senior Center, which also is funded by the Foundation.

Caregiver SOS seeks to build supportive partnerships to improve the health and well-being of family caregivers and their loved ones. The vision is to ensure that caregivers have the help they need to continue caring and living well.