By Stephanie Aragon, Director of Helpline
"My mother died recently and I was her caregiver during the six years that she had Alzheimer’s disease. I phoned the Helpline many times over the years to ask for assistance. Now that I am no longer an active caregiver I plan to make a donation specifying that the money go to the Helpline so that other caregivers can benefit the way I have. How will my contribution be used?"
Please accept our sincere condolences on the passing of your mother. Thank you for allowing us to share in your caregiving journey and for considering supporting CaringKind. CaringKind is New York City’s leading expert on Alzheimer’s and dementia caregiving, and our Helpline, the program to which you intend to donate, is the heart of CaringKind.
Since 1986, Helpline Specialists have been providing callers with the most up-to-date information, education, and support regarding Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Helpline Specialists are often a caller’s first contact with CaringKind, and as such they receive intensive training to ensure they convey information in a caring, compassionate, and competent manner to all callers. Helpline Specialists hold a wealth of knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease, our organization, and other social service agencies throughout New York City. Answering calls on the Helpline is a unique and important job, and your contribution will help ensure that Helpline Specialists continue to receive professional development and access to current resources.
Imagine that you are a fly on the wall in the Helpline office. Several Helpline Specialists are answering phone calls. One is speaking English, another, Spanish. Some calls are quick – registering for a seminar or workshop, others may last for the good part of an hour – where to go for a diagnosis, assistance in finding a support group, or how to handle an impending crisis. One caller may be in despair or feeling overwhelmed. There may seem to be no light at the end of the tunnel. The Helpline Specialist listens, asks questions, offers support, and provides suggestions. The caller’s anxiety lessens, and she is assured that CaringKind will be there for her throughout her caregiving journey.
As stated above, there are many reasons why people contact the Helpline. Some call because they are experiencing memory loss while others call because they are caring for a person diagnosed with a type of dementia. Many call to learn about the services we offer and to register for our free education seminars and training programs. Professionals call to consult about one of their clients, and students call to acquire more information for class discussions or term papers on geriatric care and to learn about volunteer opportunities. People also call when they feel alone or confused; they call for emotional support because living with Alzheimer’s disease can be overwhelming at times. And many people make repeat calls because they feel empowered by our Helpline Specialists.
As of July 2016, the Helpline has responded to, on average, over 725 interactions per month. Interactions include telephone calls, emails, in-person meetings, and postal mail inquiries to the Helpline.
Contributions have supported our goal of professionalizing the Helpline. In the past, our Helpline team consisted of mostly trained volunteers who came for weekly four-hour shifts. With the support of donors such as you, the Helpline has gone from volunteer-driven to professionally staffed by Master’s level social workers, or those with a related degree. In addition, we have been able to hire bilingual and bicultural staff, enabling us to meet the needs of our callers in their native language and in a culturally appropriate manner. This helps callers feel more comfortable, most especially when discussing difficult family situations. We have also been able to upgrade our information packets from printed flyers folded in small brown envelopes to two-sided folders customized with information addressing the information needed by each unique caller.
With contributions such as yours, we hope to further expand and modernize the 24-hour Helpline and continue to help all New Yorkers during their caregiving journeys.