Valley Caregiver Resource Center: Helping you, help your loved ones
For The Madera Tribune
Michael Lammons and his daughter spend time together after Lammons stroke. With assistance from the Valley Caregiver Resource Center, the Lammons family was able to provide Michael a loving environment at home during his recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged marginalized groups into a depression, both literally and figuratively. No group has felt the impact by the lack of socialization and interaction more than the senior community.
Dr. Linda Fried, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, stated in a university publication, “They’re wondering if they’ll be able to get the care they need. And most profoundly, they’re wondering if they are going to be cast out of society. If their lives have value.”
However, one nonprofit 501(c) 3 corporation has been advocating for, empowering, and protecting seniors and their caregivers — the Valley Caregiver Resource Center.
Since July 1988, the Valley Caregiver Resource Center has provided much needed support for seniors and their families trying to navigate the challenges, costs, and complications of senior living.
VCRC has been an advocate, teacher, counselor and a friend to both seniors and caregivers without the resources or support they need.
In August of 2020, Madera resident and retired Air Force, now American Legion Post 11 Auxiliary chaplain David Rodrigues, 73, reached out to VCRC looking for help. Rodrigues is one of 112 Madera County caregivers who utilize services from VCRC.
His wife Charlene Rodrigues, 72, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and, as her caregiver, David wanted her to be home in her final days.
“I learned a lot through the whole process,” David said. “I learned that life is short and precious, but there is also hope. The Valley Caregiver Resource Center went step-by-step with me to find the best care for my wife so she could come home.”
With the personal, one-on-one help from VCRC, David found the resources and the financial assistance that allowed him to bring professional care into his home.
“When Senior Helpers- Central Valley North (an in-home-care agency that works with VCRC) were here, it was positive, loved and you could tell they cared. Charlene wasn’t speaking much, but I knew she was happy to be home,” David said. “The Valley Caregiver Resource Center was there for my family and I can’t tell them how thankful I am.”
To be eligible for services from VCRC, a client must be caring for an adult with a cognitive impairing condition that occurred after the age of 18 (for example: dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease), or someone 60 years and older in need of assistance with daily living activities.
In October of 2020, Sanger resident Barbara Lammons reached out to VCRC looking for help. Lammons became one of three dozen family caregivers from the Sanger area to become a client with VCRC.
Her husband Michael Lammons, 78, suffered a stroke, resulting in her husband becoming non-verbal and unable to use the right side of his body. Lammons and her daughter Merrian Mills needed assistance.
Luckily, they found the Valley Caregiver Resource Center.
“When my father first had his stroke in September, we had no clue of where to start in terms of securing home healthcare. In addition to the massive concern we had for the overall health and progress expectancy for my father, we had the added stress of wondering how to pay for the amount of care that he would need beyond what insurance would pay for,” Mills said. “Being the one organization that could offer us hope and security was everything for us emotionally.”
Moreover, like the David and the Lammons, VCRC serves seniors and caregivers in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, and Merced, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties.
“The family caregiver is the backbone to our community,” VCRC Executive Director and Clovis High alumna Michelle DiBuduo said. “We keep seniors and loved ones at home for as long as possible, that is our main goal. We want the family caregiver to thrive so they can do their job. The family caregiver has a 67 percent higher mortality rate compared to someone who isn’t taking care of their loved one.
“So, we need to reach those people and we need to help them. We recognize the importance of remaining in the home, but also the need to recognize when it’s time to be placed within a facility. VCRC is determined to work closely with family caregivers to find the best possible option for them as well as the loved one they care for.”
VCRC has four programs that seniors can utilize to best navigate their journey.
The OASIS and PALS adult day programs offer a safe, stimulating experience for adults with memory loss (although shut down for the time being due to COVID-19) and the Ombudsman program advocates for residents in skilled, residential, and assisted living facilities.
The Health Insurance Counseling Advocacy Program (HICAP) provides free consultations for Medicare beneficiaries and family members to make informed decisions about their healthcare.
Support groups and educational classes are also an integral part of the Caregiver Resource Program.
“I think it’s incredible that we can offer caregivers in the Valley their own personal family consultant to walk along that caregiving journey with them free of charge,” DiBuduo said. “Many times, the family isn’t prepared to handle both the financial and emotional burden and that’s where we come in. I’ve seen it over and over again, we are their only lifeline. They have nowhere else to go.”
Every November since 1994, family caregivers across the country have been honored for their commitment to health and well-being of their family.
President Bill Clinton signed the first National Family Caregivers Month Presidential Proclamation in 1997 and every president since has followed suit by issuing an annual proclamation recognizing and honoring family caregivers each November.
Celebrating Family Caregivers during the month of November enables all to raise awareness of family caregiver issues, celebrate the efforts of family caregivers, educate family caregivers about self-identification and increase support for family caregivers.
In addition, the Fresno City Council presented a Proclamation for National Caregivers Month on behalf of Valley Caregiver Resource Center.
“They understand the work that we do and the services we provide our community,” DiBuduo said. “It really is an honor to be recognized by the Fresno City Council and we hope to continue the life-changing work we do here.”
The Office of Fresno City Council President Paul Caprioglio delivered the proclamation declaring the month of November, Valley Caregiver Resource Center Month.
“Now, therefore be it resolved, that we, Mayor Lee Brand and Fresno City Councilmembers, do hereby recognize November 2020 as National Family Caregivers Month, and acknowledges and thank Valley Caregiver Resource Center for their decades-long Valley tradition of providing information, assistance, support and education on all aspects of care for those giving care and those receiving care.”
As a non-profit 501(c) 3 corporation, VCRC has to rely on grants and funding, both federal and state but just as important, donations from community members.
In October, the Valley Caregiver Resource Center held its annual, Celebration of Care virtual event to raise funds in order to continue their work. Without the generosity and support from the Central Valley, VCRC wouldn’t be able to touch as many lives as they do.
“A lot of people mistakenly think we are a government agency, but we are a freestanding non-profit. Although we get grant funding, it doesn’t cover all of our needs,” DiBuduo said. “Fundraising is key.”
Harold Ashton, 81, has been a client with VCRC since 2018 and without their one-on-one guidance and services, the Madera native wouldn’t have been able to care for his wife Mary Lou Ashton, 81, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as he is able to now.
“The support they provided me was very helpful and I am grateful that I was able to be a client with the Valley Caregiver Resource Center,” Ashton said. “It has helped me financially, but more importantly, my wife is getting the care she needs.
“I recommend the Valley Caregiver Resource Center to other caregivers in Madera because I was able to find the help I was looking for and I know they can help others as well.”
To get in contact with the Valley Caregiver Resource Center, visit https://valleycrc.org/ or call 800-541-8614 or 224-9154. Help is only a phone call away.