Written by The Business Journal Staff
Valley Caregiver Resource Center
Education: Product of Clovis Unified Schools and California State University, Fresno.
Family: I’m the mother of two sons and one daughter – one that is in property management, one that is an air traffic controller and one that works for PG&E. I’m also the very proud grandmother to 13-year-old Phoenix, Brennan, age 10, Beckett, age 3, Knox, age 2 and Ava, age 1.
WHAT WE DO: Valley Caregiver Resource Center (VCRC) cares for and provides services, programs and education for seniors and family caregivers. Having recently celebrated 30 years, our organization continues to offer solutions to the myriad of challenges facing older adults and their caregivers. A variety of programs along with our 30-year history make VCRC a leading nonprofit care agency for our aging population and their families. Our goal is to promote personal and community wellbeing through a comprehensive menu of services – helping seniors and their families navigate the costs, complications, and challenges of growing older.
Tell us a little about your career to your current position.
As part of a large family with deep Italian roots, I became involved with the family business operations of farming and plumbing at an early age.With an intuitive grasp for checks and balances, I used an affinity for numbers to take over the accounting processes for the family businesses. While still working with the family business, I was introduced to Valley Caregiver Resource Center through my niece, when my mother was diagnosed with dementia. Though my family was fortunate to have many in the family who were able to care for my mom in every way possible, we soon discovered we still had much to learn. After that period in my life, I also began volunteering for VCRC; specifically in the areas of education and outreach. My volunteer work with VCRC was such a good fit that they hired me part-time to do the same. Over the course of several years, I transitioned into a more integral role at VCRC with the annual fundraiser, and in 2011, I was hired as the executive director.
Can you briefly tell us about some of your programs?
VCRC advocates, teaches, and counsels seniors and their caregivers. Covering nine counties throughout Central California, including Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Tulare, Tuolumne and Stanislaus, Valley Caregiver Resource Center provides greatly-needed support for valley families.
Valley Caregiver Resource Center (VCRC) offers a unique, comprehensive umbrella of services designed to help elders and their families master the challenges that accompany the aging process. As long-standing advocates and collaborators in preserving the health and quality of life of others, their aim is to promote personal and community well-being.
The Caregiver Program
With VCRC services, caregivers are better able to take care of themselves while improving the quality of care they provide for their loved ones.Though everyone’s needs are different, VCRC offers courses and programs to caregivers such as: caregiver education and training, family consultation, care planning, support groups, respite care, legal/financial consultation and short-term counseling.
The Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, HICAP, in Fresno and Madera counties, serves all ages of current Medicare beneficiaries, family members, or those who are soon-to-become eligible, as they navigate through the process and make informed decisions about their health care insurance. Throughout Fresno and Madera, HICAP offers free individual counseling and community education to Medicare beneficiaries and their families in several areas.
The Fresno OASIS Adult Day Program, housed on the VCRC site, provides recreational and therapeutic activities for participants who are in the earliest to the most advanced stages of dementia.
The Fresno-Madera Ombudsman Program works with licensing and other regulatory agencies to support resident rights and achieve the best possible quality of life for all long-term care residents. Ombudsmen are authorized by federal and state law to receive, investigate and resolve complaints made by or on behalf of residents living in skilled nursing or assisted living facilities for the elderly in Fresno and Madera counties.All services of the Ombudsman Program are free and confidential.
Can you tell us a little of the history of Valley Caregiver Resource Center?
VCRC has been advocating, empowering, and protecting seniors and their caregivers in the Valley since July 1988. In 1994, VCRC acquired its status as a nonprofit 501(c) 3 corporation and formed a multi-disciplinary board of directors, which oversees program administration and funding.
What advice can you offer a person who is just starting in the role as a caregiver for a loved one?
No. 1: First and foremost is to take care of yourself. Too often, we put the needs of our loved ones before our own, not realizing if something happens to us, there will be no one to continue caring for the family member.
No. 2: Explore immediate and long-term care options as soon as possible, before the need exists.
No. 3: As a caregiver, attend educational classes and support groups so as not to fall into the pattern of isolating yourself.
Lastly, call Valley Caregiver Resource Center and allow us to walk alongside you on this journey. You don’t have to do it alone.
How has the demand for your services been?
We continually experience an increasing need for our services, especially with there being approximately 75,000 households with people 65 years and older in Fresno County alone. Seniors and their families find themselves exhausted and overwhelmed with big-picture decisions and the hard work of everyday care. Many families are financially stressed and feel trapped by the looming weight of older adulthood. Caregivers sometimes provide round-the-clock care for family members without ever taking a walk outside or a trip to the store – the isolation is devastating. We provide essential tools for the entire family at little or no cost.
In what ways can the community support Valley Caregiver Resource Center?
All types of financial assistance are welcome. VCRC is a nonprofit 501(C) 3 and donations can easily be made by visiting our website or calling us directly. There are many capacities that we have a need for volunteers. The Community can assist our seniors by either directly helping in our Day Program for participants with dementia, assisting Medicare clients or advocating for those in skilled or assisted living facilities.
What are your roots in the Central Valley?
Born and raised here, the Central Valley has always been my home. That generational tradition is continuing, with my immediate family of 59 all living here, with the exception of one of my sons.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?
My very first job was working in the family packing house during my high school summers. I learned respect for hardworking people from all cultures. To this day, I am most impressed with the impact someone can make by being focused and diligent to complete any job. Mediocracy is not an option, no matter what the job.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
The best part of any day is when I get to spend time with my family and friends. Work is important, but it doesn’t give me the same pleasure as when my children and grandchildren are all together.