The Nikiski Senior Center stands under sunlight in Nikiski, Alaska, on Thursday, March 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Nikiski Senior Center stands under sunlight in Nikiski, Alaska, on Thursday, March 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Support available for community caregivers

Nikiski Senior Center hosts relaunched Kenai Peninsula Family Caregiver Support Program

Resources are available for people providing care to family members facing conditions like dementia through the Kenai Peninsula Family Caregiver Support Program hosted at the Nikiski Senior Center.

Senior representative Lisa Greenleaf said Thursday that they have funds available and a support community ready to welcome people around the Kenai Peninsula in need of the support.

The program provides different services and aide to caregivers of people who are older than 60 years or who have different dementia conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or others.

Information provided by the center defines a caregiver as anyone who supports a senior citizen or a person with dementia with “activity of daily living.” That includes picking up medicine or assisting with bathing, clothing or feeding.

“Too often a caregiver doesn’t even realize that he or she is a caregiver,” it reads.

Dani Kebschull, program coordinator, said she’s been involved with the program since it first came to the peninsula at the Soldotna Senior Center as a state grant that was part of a federal initiative called the National Family Caregiver Support Program.

“It is unique in that it focuses not on the person who is sick or the person people are taking care of — it focuses on the caregiver themselves,” Kebschull said. “So that they can take care of their loved one longer by getting services.”

Those services can take a lot of forms. Greenleaf said they can spend up to $500 per individual. They’ve connected people with incontinence supplies, funding for meals on wheels, taxi tokens and a variety of other situational considerations.

In addition to those services, the program also facilitates and hosts regular support groups at locations around the central Kenai Peninsula. The program is open to any residents of the peninsula.

The program was only recently restarted locally, after briefly falling away in the summer of 2023.

Administrative assistant John Walker, Greenleaf said, is a grant writing “wizard” tasked with applying for the three-year grant that makes the program possible and for annual continuance applications. He said that he’s actively working to bring more resources to the community.

Because the Nikiski Senior Center secured funding and restarted the program toward the end of last year, Greenleaf said they’re still building momentum and have money ready to spend before the end of the fiscal year in June.

“We are looking to spend this money,” Greenleaf said. “We are welcoming people from anywhere on the peninsula.”

Kebschull said they can talk with people and help identify what the most important needs are.

“I tell people, ‘you tell me what you need’,” she said. “Usually they don’t know.”

Beyond just the financial aid, Walker said the program provides tremendous value by getting information into people’s hands through avenues like the support groups.

It’s “relationships,” Kebschull said, that showcase the value of the program. She said she spends time talking to people and sees value in providing them with the tools and information they need to better care for both their loved ones and themselves.

Sometimes, that means convincing “fiercely independent Alaskan elders” to accept the help that is available.

For more information or to get involved with the program, call the Nikiski Senior Center at 907-776-7654.

Support group sessions are open to anyone, though more information can be found at the same number.

This month, two more sessions are scheduled, on Tuesday, March 19 at the Kenai Senior Center and on Thursday, March 21 at the Sterling Senior Center. All support group sessions run from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Next month, support groups will be held at the Tyotkas Elder Center on April 2, the Soldotna Senior Center on April 5, the Kenai Senior Center on April 16, the Sterling Senior Center on April 18, and the Nikiski Senior Center on April 26. More information can be found in the Nikiski Senior Center’s newsletters at nikiskiseniorcenter.org.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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