Family Service Agency, Antioch University and the Alzheimer’s Association today announced the launch of a new Caregiver Support Training Program, a collaborative effort to address the critical gap that exists in caregiver support throughout Santa Barbara County. Funded by the Santa Barbara Foundation, the goal of the program is to increase the number of mental health professionals who are trained and available to support the needs of elders, caregivers and their families, as well as to raise awareness among caregivers of available resources.

“With the growth of our aging population, and as medical gains result in elders living longer, there has been an increasing toll on those who care for them,” said Lisa Brabo, Ph.D., Executive Director of Family Service Agency. “Recent data suggests the need for increased access to support for caregivers in our community.”

In Santa Barbara County over 50% of caregivers spend 40 hours or more on caregiving activities each week.
The challenges of caregiving can be overwhelming, with the caregivers’ psychological health being the most adversely affected with 20% to 50% of caregivers reporting depressive disorders or symptoms. Additionally, one study of California caregivers found that 75% did not know where to access support services available to them.

The Caregiver Support Training Program leverages the expertise of trainees enrolled in the Concentration in Healthy Aging at Antioch University Santa Barbara, the clinical expertise at Family Service Agency and dementia expertise at Alzheimer’s Association to provide critical services for seniors and their caregivers.

“The program will be the first in the Santa Barbara area,” said Elizabeth Wolfson, Ph.D., LCSW, Department Chair of the Master’s in Clinical Psychology Program at Antioch University, “to ensure that professionals already engaged in graduate education in healthy aging are on the front lines of providing support for those who care for elderly family members.”

According to Dr. Wolfson, scholarships provided through this program support students who may otherwise not be able to pursue this course of study and encourages future specialists to enroll in the Healthy Aging program at Antioch.

For further information about the Caregiver Support Training Program, contact Cynthia McNulty at 805.965.1001 x226 or cynthiamc@fsacares.org; students contact Elizabeth Wolfson at 805.962.8179 x 5155 or ewolfson@antioch.edu.

**Sources: Family Caregivers Survey Report, Area Agency on Aging; Selected Caregiver Statistics, Family Caregiver Alliance. Mental Health Needs of Older Americans, by John M. Grohol, Psy.D., World of Psychology, May 2, 2011