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Grant program aims to help Arkansas dementia caregivers

Daniel Breen
Carolyn Berry, executive director of Alzheimer's Arkansas, speaks with reporters at a news conference Tuesday at the Arkansas Department of Human Services office in Little Rock.

Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia can benefit from a new grant program led by the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

The Dementia Respite Care Pilot Program is being headed by DHS, along Alzheimer’s Arkansas and the state chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Caregivers can get up to two $500 grants per year to help pay for respite care in-home or at a facility.

David Cook with the Alzheimer’s Association said in a Tuesday news conference they plan to use data from the grant program to better target services to where they’re most needed.

“We’ll be able to see exactly where these services are desperately needed, also do some caregiver analysis to understand what their real needs are, but also be able to target specifically rural parts of the state,” Cook said.

Applicants must wait six months before re-applying for the grant, which can be used for a third-party caregiver to come into the home, or for the patient to stay briefly at an adult daycare or short-term stay facility. The program, which was approved by the Arkansas Legislature, currently has about $200,000 in funding.

Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, said she hopes to see the program expanded in the future.

“I’d like to get it to the point where the caregiver can take that time-out, that there are more resources so that the caregiver can have time to stop and smell the roses,” Mayberry said. “I feel that that does a lot to that person’s mental health, and if they are in a better frame of mind, they will be able to take care of that loved one even more.”

The program has no income or age restrictions, with at least 25% of the funding set to go to rural parts of the state. More than 93,000 people in Arkansas currently serve as a primary caregiver for someone with dementia.

Applications are not yet open for the program, but will soon be available on the websites of Arkansas DHS, Alzheimer’s Arkansas, and the state chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.