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Caring for a loved one with dementia can be draining, both emotionally and financially. However, thanks to a new program by Hospice SLO County, it doesn’t have to be.

The program, Care Management Services, is designed for those who fall within a particular pay gap: too many assets to qualify for Medicaid or other government assistance, but not enough funds to cover the cost of a nursing home or in-home care. It is run by well-trained, carefully screened volunteers, and offered for absolutely zero cost.

“This program’s time has come,” said Deborah Bayles, who oversees Care Management Services. “All the people who work in home care, health care all agree that it’s necessary. … It brings [these services] in reach for what I call the rest of us.”

MANAGING CARE:  Hospice SLO County’s new program Care Management Services launched at the beginning of 2017 to help with in-home care or the cost of a nursing home for people with dementia. The organization did an outreach event at the Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market to get the word out about the importance of end-of-life care. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HOSPICE SLO COUNTY
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF HOSPICE SLO COUNTY
  • MANAGING CARE: Hospice SLO County’s new program Care Management Services launched at the beginning of 2017 to help with in-home care or the cost of a nursing home for people with dementia. The organization did an outreach event at the Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market to get the word out about the importance of end-of-life care.

Care Management officially opened on Jan. 18, but it didn’t really get off the ground until February. It started with a grant from the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation and continues to run thanks to donations and various Hospice SLO County fundraisers. Patients enjoy the benefits of this program not only free of charge but also from the comfort of their own homes.

“We have no facilities here,” Bayles said. “We work with the clients. If they’re at home, we keep them at home. People want to age at home. We want them to be independent at home for as long as possible.”

In addition to consultations and in-home care, the program offers a wide variety of other treatments, including but not limited to counseling, yoga, reiki, bedtime vigils, and end-of-life doula services. They even provide care and/or relocation for their patients’ pets. Because Hospice SLO County is not in competition with any other hospice organizations and its volunteers have a range of backgrounds and expertise, they have no problem cooperating and outsourcing whenever they need some extra help.

“We’re what I call ‘vendor agnostic,’” Bayles said. “We bring in whatever resources are best for the client. … We don’t turn anybody away.”

Perhaps even more important than what they offer and how they offer it is when people choose to take those offers.

“Often caregivers of people with dementia are exhausted and overwhelmed,” Bayles said. “They don’t know what to do. … They put it off because they don’t want to see what’s happening, and we often get called into crisis situations.”

Being able to give caregivers and patients peace of mind isn’t the only rewarding part of working with Hospice SLO County. According to Bayles, all of the volunteers—from the medical professionals, to the office assistants, to the handymen—make it a loving and caring place to be.

“For our focus on death and dying, we’re a really fun group,” she said.

To learn more about Care Management Services, how you can volunteer or donate, or when Hospice SLO County’s next fundraisers are, visit hospiceslo.org.

Fast facts

Project Teen Health is partnering with Simply Clear Marketing to host a family-friendly 5K Fun Run fundraiser on March 18 in support of teen obesity prevention on the Central Coast. The 5K will begin at 8:30 a.m., right before the Inspired Health and Fitness Expo at the Alex Madonna Expo Center. Pre-registration is $30, and day-of registration is $35. Proceeds will fund gym memberships, athletic shoes, and field trips for low-income students participating in the program. Project Teen Health is a childhood obesity program run by the Community Action Partnership of SLO County. To register for the run, visit inspiredexpos.com/5k-run.

• The San Luis Obispo Library celebrated a grand reopening on March 4 after closing for renovations last October. The library’s new tech-friendly design comes equipped with an area for patrons to charge mobile devices, self-checkout machines, and radio-frequency identification on all library materials. The library also moved its support services to the first floor, installed an automated book sorter, and dedicated 3,000 square feet of third floor space to adult nonfiction and reference materials. The first floor features new books, music, movies, café-style seating, and two new group rooms. The second floor houses an expanded children’s area and a craft lab for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) programming.

Intern Katrina Borges wrote this week’s strokes and plugs. Send tips to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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