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Overwhelmed Caregivers in SD Can Call for Advice, Emotional Support

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A recent study found 13% of family caregivers in the U.S. had taken on that role for the first time because of the pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
A recent study found 13% of family caregivers in the U.S. had taken on that role for the first time because of the pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
May 13, 2021

PIERRE, S.D. -- Family caregivers are considered among the many groups seeing continued stress as the U.S. recovers from the pandemic. Now, a pilot project in South Dakota lends a sympathetic ear to these individuals, along with connections to resources.

Since last fall, the state's 211 helpline system has been offering a specific service for those caring for an adult, where they can call in and talk with a specialist.

Emily DeVos, caregiver support coordinator at the South Dakota Helpline Center, is that person, and with many folks stepping into the care role for the first time, she described it as a way to share concerns and get assistance in regard to the next steps.

"It is for that self-care, the safe space, talking about what's going on," DeVos explained. "And then there's also just the fact of, it's exhausting. It's exhausting to make these phone calls, it's exhausting to even know who in the community is doing this."

DeVos noted she often provides guidance on seeking out end-of-life care.

AARP, which is a partner in the six-state pilot project, estimates there are 90,000 family caregivers in South Dakota. At year's end, the program will be evaluated to determine if it should be added in other states.

Erik Gaikowski, state director for AARP South Dakota, said the service can help to ensure all those involved avoid scenarios where there is too much stress, which can compound an already difficult situation.

"We often see caregivers starting to not take care of themselves and just focusing solely on the person that's being cared for," Gaikowski observed. "And this is an opportunity for them to take a step back and realize that they need to take care of themselves to make sure that the person they are caregiving for also is taken care of into the future."

He added the average age of the family caregiver calling the service is 61, and they're likely caring for a spouse or elderly parent, or a grown child with special needs.

The service is free, and those interested are urged to call the 211 helpline. More caregiver resources can also be found on the AARP website.

Disclosure: AARP South Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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