The Alzheimer’s Association of South Carolina hopes state lawmakers will keep funding for respite care in the budget this legislative session.
“We are one of the few states that has a respite program through our state legislature, which means they fund a certain amount of money to go toward respite funding,” said Alzheimer’s Association of South Carolina spokesperson Taylor Wilson.
The South Carolina chapter provides short-term respite for family caregivers through a voucher program. “We provide respite vouchers to caregivers who are providing care most of the day, in order to give them the opportunity to bring someone in to sit with their loved ones so that they can go and take care of their own health,” Wilson said.
The vouchers ensure the caregivers are free for doctor’s appointments, exercise, or grocery shopping while a qualified individual takes care of the Alzheimer’s patient they have at home. The program is funded through the state Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) and administered in partnership with the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging. But vouchers are issued as funds are available.
“Helping to prevent caregiver burnout keeps individuals in their homes longer and we know that the longer an individual with Alzheimer’s can stay in their homes, the better off they will be financially and also with the progression of the disease,” Wilson said.
About 86,000 people in South Carolina suffer from Alzheimer’s. They are cared for by 304,000 unpaid caregivers, usually family members. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts, 120,000 people in South Carolina will have Alzheimer’s by 2025.
Wilson said these unpaid caregivers save the state billions of dollars.
“If we think about how much the caregivers are providing the 86,000 individuals who are diagnosed, if that burden was then placed onto the state for care, we would have to pay $4 billion.”
The Alzheimer’s Association of SC is encouraging legislators to keep money for the respite care in the SCDMH budget.