In the Spotlight

California Caregiver Resource Centers Celebrate 20 Years!

California was the first state in the nation to address the impact of chronic brain disorders on families and caregivers. With the development of model support programs and services, California Caregiver Resource Centers (CRCs) are in the forefront of a profound change in public policy.

Started as a grassroots effort in 1976, California's statewide system of Caregiver Resource Centers is the culmination of one community's determination to respond to a major healthcare and social need. A small group of families caring for loved ones with brain-impairing illnesses formed a task force to deal with the issue of sustaining caregivers in their difficult task, initially meeting in a church basement in San Francisco. This small seed would eventually grow into a network of Caregiver Resource Centers providing emotional support, care planning assistance, respite care, education, and legal consultation services to California caregivers. The defining moment for this network was the 1984 Comprehensive Act for Family Caregivers of Brain-Impaired Adults, which established and funded the Caregiver Resource Center system under the California Department of Mental Health.

The CRC system provides a single point of entry, embodied in each CRC region's local office, for families to access a comprehensive range of services tailored to the individual needs and diverse demographics of family caregivers. Services such as family consultations and family meetings allow CRC social workers to help caregivers to develop a personalized care plan, ease problem-solving and communication, and prepare for the future. Practical services such as counseling, respite assistance, and support groups ease the burden on overtaxed caregivers, and are integrated into the care plan. Finally, informational services such as legal information and advice, family education, web-based caregiver support, and online groups and classes keep caregivers up-to-date on everything from financial planning to caregiving techniques to establishing durable powers of attorney.

Caregiving, at one time a very private family concern, has become an increasingly important public issue. Since 1989, the CRC system has helped more than 90,000 families with personalized consultation and care assistance. The CRCs are unique: We serve family caregivers through the entire caregiving journey with a spectrum of services and support that responds to the evolving needs and challenges of caregivers. The California Policy Research Center estimates that today 3.2 million caregivers in California devote 3.4 billion hours to caregiving activities every year. The number of older adults in California (age 65 and above) is expected to double in the next 30 years, from 3.5 million to 7 million, further increasing the burden on family caregivers. Facing these challenges ahead, programs offered by the CRCs will continue to help to reduce the emotional, physical, legal, and financial impact on California families.

California's pioneering statewide system of 11 CRCs is now celebrating its 20th Anniversary. This important milestone has been captured in a 24-page illustrated report which chronicles the development of a grassroots project into what is now a national movement. Please visit the FCA website to download an electronic copy or to order a print copy of the 20th anniversary report, A 20-Year Partnership in Caring.

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