LITTLE ROCK -- The Arkansas Department of Human Services on Tuesday announced plans for a new program to help people who are caring for individuals with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
The $200,000 Dementia Respite Care Pilot Program aims to help the more than 93,000 caregivers across the state.
Individuals can apply for a $500 grant up to twice a year, with six months between each attempt. Unlike other grants, this program is not based on income.
"These funds can be used to pay someone that the caregiver or family knows personally," said Amanda Shaw, Grant Coordinator for Alzheimer's Arkansas. "It must be someone over the age of 18 that does not live in the home. Or, they can use the funds to pay for a professional caregiver to come into the home. They can also utilize an adult daycare facility. It's up to the family to decide which option works best for them."
The announcement comes after the Arkansas Legislative Council approved the launch of the program on Friday.
State Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, said that she believes these caregivers deserve time to "stop and smell the roses."
David Cook, from Alzheimer's Arkansas, noted that the services of these caregivers often go unpaid and that these individuals provided over 140 million hours of care in 2021. Cook added that the efforts made by these individuals have saved the state an estimated $3 billion annually.
Both Alzheimer's Arkansas and Alzheimer's Association have partnered with the Department of Human Services to launch the respite grant and its services.
Cook described the announcement as "a historic day in Arkansas" and called it "the first program of its kind."
The newly established program will allow the state to collect data on where services are needed most. Portions of the program will involve "targeted funding" -- which will allow the state to better serve caregivers in more rural areas, according to Cook.
Carolyn Berry, executive director of Alzheimer's Arkansas, acknowledged the state's ongoing struggle with accessibility.
"Accessibility has always been an issue. We want to make sure we serve caregivers across the entire state. We will partner together and make sure that our caregivers have the respite care needed," said Berry.
Although this is the first grant of its kind, the state Department of Human Services and its partners reiterated that plans for better serving these individuals extend far beyond the new program.
Mayberry added that this is only the beginning of the support and funding the state would like to provide to these caregivers.
"This is just a stepping stone. One that we will celebrate ... but we're not going to stop here. We have a lot of enthusiasm and we plan to improve it even more," Mayberry said.
Applications are not yet available, but an official launch date for the program will be announced.
More information on the program and its services can be found at www.ALZark.org/grants.