Aging Well: Conference highlights caregiver resources, support |

Aging Well: Conference highlights caregiver resources, support

Tamera Manzanares

Living in the Yampa Valley, we accept many things, including long winters, delayed springs and limited services to help us through difficult times.

The challenges of living in geographically-isolated communities can be particularly hard on the elderly, people with health problems and, especially, family members who care for these individuals.

Add the independent rural spirit of "going it alone," and it's likely that many caregivers resign themselves to facing struggles — including their own health and depression problems — without help.

This reality worries Nancy McStay, program manager for Northwest Colorado Options for Long-term Care, which helps connect caregivers to publicly-funded services and resources.

McStay wants caregivers to know that although we might not have the spectrum of support available in cities, more resources are available in the Yampa Valley to help caregivers care for their loved ones and also attend to their own health needs.

Deciphering what programs are available, however, as well as eligibility requirements and paperwork, can be very overwhelming, especially for a person in a stressful caregiving situation.

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That's why McStay organizes an annual caregiving conference highlighting specific programs and details that potentially can make a big difference in the lives of caregivers and those they care for.

The third annual Caregiver's Toolbox Conference is June 7 at The Haven Community Center in Hayden. There is no cost to attend, though pre-registration is appreciated.

"My whole goal is that participants come out of this with something — whether it is more education or an application or paperwork — that will help them obtain more resources and assistance with caregiving in their homes," McStay said.

McStay organizes the conferences based on issues that pop up often in her dealings with clients.

This year's event will focus on long-term Medicaid, veterans benefits, medical and financial power of attorney, Medicare Part D for prescription drugs and mental health support for caregivers.

Guest experts will present important information on all of these topics.

The financial burden of providing long-term care for a person is one of the most difficult and stressful aspects of caregiving.

"It's expensive to get old," McStay said. "Most people have not had the capability to save or are living past their means."

Medicare pays for skilled nursing care for a very limited time but does not cover assisted living facilities. Long-term Medicaid and veterans benefits can fill a large financial hole for eligible individuals.

Veterans benefits — which can provide financial assistance to veterans and their dependents — are a huge untapped resource, McStay said.

The conference will help participants determine whether their care recipient may be eligible for these programs, how to navigate the often complex application processes and what local facilities or programs accept these benefits.

Information about programs offering financial assistance to those who do not qualify for Medicaid or veterans benefits also will be available. Eligibility requirements, such as age functional limitations and service needs, typically apply to these programs.

Legal experts will be on hand to discuss the importance of having power of attorney authorizations in place before a person is sick and unable to make those decisions.

The process, which authorizes another person to act on the grantor's behalf in a medical or financial matter, does not require an attorney.

Medicare Part D is a source of confusion for many older adults. Betsy Packer, counselor for the Northwest Colorado division of the Colorado Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program, will talk about enrollment penalties, when seniors should change their prescription drug plans and other important details.

A representative of Colorado West Regional Mental Health will discuss why depression is prevalent among caregivers and what resources are available to help them prevent or manage emotional stress.

"Being a caregiver, whether you are a senior or not, is very difficult and can be very depressing. … It's often too hard for them to cope with taking care of their own health in addition to someone else's," McStay said.

Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. For more information, visit or call 970-871-7606.

Caregiver Conference

The Caregiver’s Toolbox Conference is from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 7 at the Haven Community Center in Hayden. Guest speakers will discuss long-term Medicaid, veterans benefits, Medicare Part D prescription drug program, medical and financial power of attorney and mental health support for caregivers. Information about local caregiver resources and services also will be available.

The free event includes lunch and door prizes. Registration is appreciated. Organizations interested in having an information table are asked to pay $25 or provide a door prize. The registration deadline for participants and organizations is Tuesday. Call Nancy McStay at 970-824-5646.

Caregiver resources

■ Northwest Colorado Options for Long-term Care provides caregivers financial assistance for respite care (including adult day services) and/or equipment. Eligibility depends on a patient’s age and cognitive and physical limitations. Services are available to families (including grandparents who are primary caregivers of grandchildren) in Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties. For more information, call Nancy McStay at 970-824-5646.

■ The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association offers adult day and respite programs at The Haven Assisted Living Center in Hayden and the Rollingstone Respite House in Steamboat Springs. The programs provide activities, meals and assistance with daily-care needs for older adults needing supervision. Full- and half-day programs are available Mondays through Fridays. Reservations can be made on an ongoing or as-needed basis. Overnight respite also is available. For more information, call Diane Girty at 970-875-1891 or visit

■ The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association offers a variety of services for caregivers and older adults including home health and companion care programs, low cost immunizations and health screenings and Aging Well fitness and wellness programs. For more information, call 970-879-1632 in Steamboat, 970-824-8233 in Craig or visit

■ A support group for caregivers and family members of people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia meets monthly in Steamboat Springs. For more information, call Barbara Bronner at 970-879-8942.

By the numbers

■ 8 of every 10 Americans 65 or older live with a chronic illness

■ 63: The average age of caregivers caring for individuals 65 and older

■ 59 to 75 percent of caregivers are women

■ 20 percent of caregivers are caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia

■ 1 in 5 caregivers provide more than 40 hours of care per week

■ 40 percent of caregivers of people with dementia suffer from depression or emotional stress

■ $257 billion: The estimated economic value of services provided by family or informal caregivers (in 2000 dollars)

Sources: U.S. Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention,

National Family Caregivers Association, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Administration on Aging, Alzheimer’s Association, National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.

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