Support for those who give care |

Support for those who give care

Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

Photo for The Union by John Hart

The needs of family caregivers in Nevada County will grow significantly in coming decades, and there is already a growing gap between local needs and available resources.

Renee Chevraux, MSW, of Sierra Nevada Home Care offers these numbers to illustrate the point:

Thirteen percent of the U.S. population now is older than 65. But in Nevada County, that figure is 18.6 percent, and according to the 2000 census, about one-third of the over-65s had some type of disability. During the next 40 years, Nevada County will see an estimated 139 percent growth in people over 60, according to Area 4 Agency of Aging.

Caring for a spouse or parent is an issue that most families will have to face at some point, she said.

Chevraux, who works for Sierra Nevada Home Care and teaches about aging at American River College, said Nevada County numbers don't exist as to how many family members now are caring for spouses, parents or others who need tending.

"There's no way to estimate that, but the need is there," she said.

Recommended Stories For You

She knows because she does in-home needs assessment and for a dozen years has run a support group for caregivers — mostly spouses and adult children — who face the daily difficulties associated with home care.

"Their number one issue revolves around the tremendous emotional challenges," she explained. "They deal with isolation, grief, loss and guilt — they never think they can do enough."

The group, sponsored by Sierra Nevada Home Care, is free. It meets at Quail Ridge the second Tuesday of each month from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Barbara Larsen is a self-employed education and family consultant who has worked in elder care locally for 27 years, primarily serving Alzheimer's patients and their families. She works on a fee-for-service basis through referrals, assessing needs and helping families navigate through available resources. She also trains professionals working with these patients.

Larsen also is concerned about diminishing resources.

"We are losing nonprofits due to budget cuts since 2008, but we're fortunate that this community still has many organizations devoted to elder care, and they work well together," Larsen said.

A typical family caregiver is a woman in her late 40s who works at her own career and devotes another 20 hours of care weekly to a parent, Larsen said. But anyone can be a caregiver — daughters, wives, husbands, sons, even grandchildren, nieces or nephews.

She urged anyone facing family health issues to visit the website of the Elder-Care Providers Coalition of Nevada County ( This organization publishes a free "Purple Guide," listing all of the local resources available for elder care, including other service providers and support groups.

Erin Thomas-Rose is one of several clinical social workers at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. Even there, Rose and her colleagues work daily to counsel people whose family members have become ill or disabled and refer them to support organizations. On any given day, one-third to half the hospitalized patients' families are asking for help, she said.

November is National Family Caregivers Month. For information on resources available, contact Sierra Nevada Home Care at (530) 274-6350.

Barbara Larsen can be reached at (530) 478-1735 or by visiting

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.

Go back to article