Inova’s Programs Provide Free Caregiver Support

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to honor all those who care for loved ones each day. Inova Health System recognizes the important role of caregivers, who work tirelessly to keep family members healthy and safe.

Caregiving can bring many joys — and it can also be challenging and overwhelming. So Inova provides resources for caregivers of older adults and children with physical disabilities. Our caregiver programs are one way we can recognize caregivers and make their daily lives easier.

Support for Caregivers of Children with Disabilities

All children have daily needs, like food, safe shelter, clothing and education. But if your child has a physical disability, the list of needs becomes longer and more complicated. Who can help my child at school? Where can I find the right doctor? How do I get a wheelchair?

The team at Inova understands the unique challenges of caring for a child with special healthcare needs. That’s why we partner with the Virginia Department of Health to provide Care Connection for Children. This free service is designed for families in Virginia who have a child or youth with a physical disability.

“Many caregivers of children with physical disabilities feel overwhelmed and alone,” said Judy Sturm, program manager of Care Connection for Children. “When they meet with us, we listen to their struggles and create an action plan to help them. Then, we walk them through each part of the plan and help them complete it.”

Help Beyond Healthcare

Care Connection for Children assists Virginia families that have a child with a physical disability. Families don’t pay anything for the service, regardless of income or insurance coverage. And thanks to Inova’s bilingual staff and interpreters, the team can help anyone, no matter what language they speak.

The team at Care Connection for Children with caregivers to:

  • Apply for community resources: Our team is knowledgeable about area programs and resources that provide food, transportation and other needs. We help families communicate their needs to these programs and apply for assistance.
  • Connect with healthcare providers: Our case manager sets up a three-way phone call with the parent and healthcare provider, like a doctor’s office or pharmacy. We walk the caregiver through how to make doctor’s appointments, arrange transportation or request other healthcare needs.
  • Find mental health resources: Children with physical disabilities and their parents have unique social and emotional challenges. The team can refer children to a psychologist to address mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. We also connect children with counselors for issues like self-confidence.
  • Navigate school: A dedicated education coordinator serves as a contact between the school and family. This team member helps parents navigate special education needs and get educational support.

Whatever concerns a parent has, Inova’s case managers listen and guide them through next steps to find a solution. “Many people think we only assist with healthcare, but we do much more than that,” Sturm said. “We empower caregivers to learn how to handle all of their children’s needs.”

Compassion and Connection

Maria Elba Jadrijevic, parent coordinator of Care Connection for Children, relates to caregivers on a personal level. Jadrijevic came to Virginia from Bolivia in 2000. Then in 2009, Maria had a son who was diagnosed with special healthcare needs.

“I was completely overwhelmed after my son’s diagnosis,” Jadrijevic recalled. “I didn’t know where to turn for assistance with medical care coordination or community assistance and resources. A program like Care Connection for Children would have made a world of difference for us.”

Jadrijevic hosts a support group for Spanish-speaking families who have a child with a physical disability. “Families share their stories with one another, and it’s really powerful,” Jadrijevic said. “At some of our meetings, we also offer a self-care activity. Parents make a craft or learn a new skill — something they wouldn’t have time to do for themselves.”  

“I deeply relate to what these parents are experiencing,” Jadrijevic said. “Many of our parents feel isolated and stressed. So part of our service is connecting these caregivers with others who understand.”

Non-Spanish-speaking families also receive complete support through the expertise of Inova’s case managers. “Our case managers are closely tuned into support groups in the area, and they find something that fits each family’s needs,” Sturm says. “No matter what language they speak or what kind of physical disability their child has, we can help.”

Caring for Older Adults: Helping Hands with ElderLink

Not every caregiving job involves children. Many people are caring for aging parents and loved ones who also have their own unique needs. If you’re a caregiver for an older adult, Inova provides a variety of resources to help.

Inova partners with the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging to provide ElderLink, a program that supports older adults and their caregivers. ElderLink offers a variety of resources to assist with well-being, safety and independence. Fee-based offerings include:

  • Care coordination, including referrals and help getting the right healthcare
  • Family counseling
  • Health and exercise classes for older adults
  • In-home safety assessments
  • Respite care

ElderLink also provides free support and programs for caregivers of older adults, including:

  • Caregiver consultations in office or via phone
  • Educational resources to boost confidence in caregiving
  • Support calls to connect with other caregivers

Caregivers Need Care, Too

Inova is proud to support caregivers in our community, who sacrifice their time, energy and resources for others. If you have a child with a physical disability, contact Inova’s Care Connection for Children or call 703-698-2450 to request a referral or resources. Caregivers of older adults may contact the Inova ElderLink Program or call 703-324-5374 for more information.

Leave a Comment