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Making the Case for Respite Program

Volunteers Assist Seniors—And Their Caregivers, Too

For both participants and beneficiaries, the Senior Respite Program, offered by the Hempstead-based Education & Assistance Corp. (EAC) offers an invaluable service to in-house senior citizens throughout Long Island. The program involves volunteers who, once or twice a week, travel to a senior’s residence and allow caregivers, people who may be family members or professionals, a needed break from their daily routines. The volunteers perform a variety of services, but mostly they just serve as companions to the senior in need.

New York State’s budget problems have led to the program being targeted for extinction, something that could happen late this month. A Massapequa couple, George and Lucille Caligure, have both participated in the program and in George’s case, have been a beneficiary of its volunteer work. Recently, Ms. Caligure and an EAC volunteer spoke up in favor of Senior Respite Program.

“It’s a good program,” said Lucille. “It’s the only one in Nassau County that’s affordable for caregivers.”

Lucille has been working as an EAC volunteer since 1995. She currently assists a senior, mostly providing companionship. Lucille also does some cooking. “The cooking isn’t necessary, but I do it because I want to,” she said. An EAC volunteer will take a senior to the doctor or shopping, but oftentimes, their biggest contribution is to relieve the caregiver.

“I can’t say enough about the organization,” Lucille said. “It doesn’t seem fair that they are taking it away from the seniors.”

George volunteered from 1995 to 2005. Two years ago, he suffered a stroke and now a volunteer comes in from Farmingdale once and sometimes, twice a week, to give George’s own aide some time off.

George’s volunteer, who wished only to identify himself as Gary from Farmingdale, travels weekly from that village to Massapequa. He also assists an elderly man, who is blind, at his home in South Farmingdale. Gary has been volunteering for 10 years. “I stay with him, make sure he doesn’t get hurt; I help him get out of the house,” he said of his South Farmingdale senior.

In Massapequa, Gary entertains George with music and videos, while the two also pass the time talking of current events and watching television.

“All the caregivers I’ve met are tremendous people who do a spectacular job,” Gary said. He added that their health often begins to deteriorate too, and so his work gives them a few hours just to relax and “get their minds clear.”

“It would be very shortsighted to do away with a very helpful program,” Gary told The Massapequan Observer. “It saves money by saving family members from putting seniors in nursing homes.” Gary said the program saves money by keeping caregivers in good health themselves. It also has been invigorating to him, as he noted all that he has learned from the seniors he cares for.

“We talk about sports and politics. I’m able to learn so much, it’s amazing,” he said, remarking also on how inspirational the caregivers’ work has been to him.

“[Senior respite] is a very beneficial program that should not be done away with,” Gary concluded.

According to EAC officials, the New York State Office for the Aging and the Helen L. Morris Foundation both provide program funding for Senior Respite Program. They add that $5,000 is needed each year to cover program expenses. A $500 donation, EAC officials maintain, covers the cost of one month of in-home Respite for four caregiving families.