Survival of Health Care Program Threatened

June 3, 2009 7:56:05 PM PDT
The needs of many California families whose loved ones suffer from Alzheimer's are at risk as the state budget crisis threatens the survival of a critical program. Four million Californians are caring for family members with brain injury, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.One Valley family is unsure of how they will cope without the support of the California Caregiver Resource Center. Last December Cathy Perez' mother came to live with her and her husband. Since then Perez has been getting assistance and education from the Valley's Caregiver Resource Center, "The little bit of help a person gets within a week or a month is just tremendous."

85 year old Carmen Williams of Fresno led a normal, happy life raising her children and making a home. She's the one needing constant care from her daughter. Carmen has Alzheimer's. And the need to support her mother 24 hours a day is exhausting.

But thanks to a small stipend for travel, senior volunteer Apolonia Green gives Cathy Perez a rest from round the clock responsibility and the disease slowly stealing her mother. She came to the family through the Caregiver Resource Center. "That has been a blessing for my family, for me. It takes a lot out of you and it's hard to see this happen."

This non-profit agency brings help to thousands of valley families from Merced to Bakersfield from the main office in Central Fresno, and three satellite offices up and down the Valley. If the state pulls its annual 8-hundred-thousand dollars in funding the doors will close, ending support groups, respite care and family education. Director Marjery Minney calls it a tragedy, "I really feel that way because for the families it is s 24-7. It's not a job they applied for and nobody ever trained them for it or that they are paid to do."

On Wednesday in Sacramento, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose father-in-law suffers with Alzheimer's acknowledged those needs but offered little hopes, "I know those people and I know who they are. The only thing is there's nothing we can do about it because I cannot promise people what I cannot deliver."

Wednesday was a good day for Carmen Williams. She was alert, smiling and aware of her surroundings even joking with our Photographer about his bright lights. What tomorrow brings is always uncertain and often exhausting for her and her family of caregivers. Cathy Perez is concerned what she'll do if the help she relies on is gone and she knows she's not along in the fear, "Just for myself, there are so many people out in the Valley that need help".

With California's 24-billion dollar budget deficit looming, programs and services like those helping the Perez family are very much at risk of ending.

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