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Division of Services for Aging announces push to increase access to caregiver support


Delaware’s population is aging faster than the national average, and that growth leaves a growing number of Delawareans to provide in-home care to parents or spouses.

Delaware Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities Director Melissa Smith says while support services – like housing vouchers or home health aids – are available to caregivers, the state currently does not have an accurate estimate of how many people in Delaware need those services. Many caregivers, she says, don’t identify as such.

“We find that’s an identification issue across the board with caregivers," she said. "They think of themselves as a wife, a daughter, a sister, but not a caregiver.”

This month, her Division launched a new forum – made up of current caregivers and the agencies offering them support services – to coordinate efforts to improve access to and the scope of those services.

“Looking to increase the amount of supports in ways that can be flexible and nimble," she said. "Ways to support caregivers over the weekends and during off-hours are things that we’ve heard could be very helpful to the caregiver.”

While the forum will consider options for improving services for caregivers, it is fighting an uphill battle. The number of day centers for adults with disabilities in Delaware, for instance – a key part of distributing the workload of caregivers – is shrinking.

In June, the closure of a single nonprofit day center in Wilmington left 170 adults with disabilities and their families to find alternative daytime care with little advance notice.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.