Caring for a family member with any type of disability has been shown to have a significant impact on the caregiver’s health and workplace productivity. Advocates, a leading provider of health and social services in Massachusetts, recently received a $100,000 grant to develop and deploy an autism and disability training program among MetroWest businesses and a “caregiver corps” of 50 respite workers for people juggling caregiving, work, family, financial, and other responsibilities.
The Becker Family Trust awarded the grant to fund this initiative, aimed at more than 600 local residents. Nationally, 55% of family caregivers are overwhelmed by the amount of care family members need and experience stress and depression leading to increased health care costs of more than $30 billion (National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities, 2016).
“Our plan is to positively disrupt the lack of understanding of the unique needs of people with autism and their caregivers by creating a welcoming, inclusive community focused on supporting the caregiver,” says Jeffrey Keilson, Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning at Advocates. “We will expand on the great work of our Autism Alliance program and then, in collaboration with many partners throughout Metro West, grow the initiative to encompass all families/caregivers supporting people living with a variety of life challenges.”
“We are grateful to the Becker Family Trust and the Arc of Massachusetts for making it possible to provide relief to people who give so much of themselves for family members in need,” says Diane Gould, president and CEO of Advocates. “This initiative will lead to an increased quality of life for caregivers and a socially inclusive life for their loved ones, ultimately creating a stronger community for all.”
Over two years, the four phases of the initiative comprises:
- Hiring of a community liaison to spearhead the education and outreach effort on the need for support of family caregivers and their loved ones
- Increasing the number of resources and events available to improve the quality of life for caregivers and people with disabilities, and recruiting a corps of caregiver respite workers
- Educating MetroWest businesses about the value of a caregiver-friendly and sensitivity-informed community, developing training resources, and recognizing accommodating businesses for their efforts with a yet-to-be-named caregiver seal of approval
- Partnering with additional sponsors and donors to support the goal of providing comprehensive web-based information, community connections and support for caregivers in additional communities including Northborough, Westborough and Marlborough
“Grants awarded by The Becker Family Trust are for innovative, high impact projects benefiting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for social inclusion, self-determination, employment, assistive technology and supported living,” says Leo Sarkissian, executive director of The Arc of Massachusetts. “Advocates has the breath of experience and expertise to make a real difference in Massachusetts and perhaps a model for other communities.”