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Originally published: 2012-11-19 20:55:39
Last modified: 2012-11-19 20:55:39

Annual luncheon honors High Country Caregivers

by Sherrie Norris

Caregiving. It's all about what they do and who they are and it provided a common ground for those 50-some men and women gathered at Casa Rustica Italian Restaurant in Boone on Tuesday for the annual Caregiver's Appreciation Luncheon.

Sponsored each year by the High Country Caregivers Foundation, with the help of local partnering health-care related businesses, the event honors those who provide in-home care for loved ones who are unable to care for themselves.    

The luncheon is held each November in recognition of National Caregivers Month and brings those selfless individuals together in a bond not easily understood by the outside world, said Brenda Reece, foundation advisor and family caregiver support specialist with the Area Agency on Aging.  
  "It was a pleasure to see so many family caregivers enjoying themselves and a well-deserved break from their regular duties," Reece said. "Our goal is to let them know that we acknowledge and appreciate all of their hard work and efforts on behalf of their loved ones."

"Often," Reece said, "caregiving is a 24 hour-a-day, seven day-a-week job, which can last years, if not decades. Many caregivers fall ill due to the stress of caregiving, their inattention to their own needs and their inability to take time for themselves."

Those attending the gathering represented an eclectic group of people -- grandmothers, aunts, adult children, spouses and siblings who, for various reasons, have been forced into a caregiving role for a loved one; they were joined by representatives of the agencies that provide helpful resources to the program. 

Among those present was Robert Berger of Deep Gap, who earlier this year was named 2012 Caregiver of the Year at the 10th annual Adult Services Expo at Boone Mall. 

Berger has cared for his wife, Connie Berger, in heir home for the last eight years since she suffered a stroke, welcoming the assistance of their daughter, Barbara Harris, who returned to the area last year.
 In her nomination of Berger for the award, Reece described Berger as "a loving, caring and dedicated husband who has managed to meet the needs of his wife and to keep her with him at home, despite her paralysis and speech difficulties." 

She said he was "an inspiration to many of us who only hope, that if the need arises, our loved ones will be as attentive to our needs as he is to hers." 

On behalf of HCCF, Reece expressed her appreciation to Casa Rustica's owners, the Pedroni family, for hosting the event. 

"We are extremely grateful for their continued generosity and support of HCCF and our efforts to assist and encourage local family caregivers," she said. "They are a great example of why we should support our local restaurants and businesses. Without the help of our community, the success of HCCF could not be possible."

Reece also offered updates on the organization's programs and available resources. 

A key component of the HCCF, she said, is the respite voucher system, which, given to caregivers, may be used for payment for services offered through partnering vendors, which include most of the area's health-care agencies. 

Reece also introduced a new program coming to Watauga and Ashe counties, known as REACH OUT, designed for caregivers of those with Alzheimer's disease or related dementias.  

Already operating in other neighboring counties, Reece said, "REACH -- Resources to Enhance Alzheimer Caregivers Health -- is a supportive program designed specifically for caregivers of those with dementia." 

Reece also said that HCCF "is exploring opportunities to expand its programming to Ashe and Alleghany counties," and that the organization "continues to work with local employers to bring solutions to working caregivers."

The foundation is currently accepting donations for the annual toy drive conducted for its Relatives as Parents Program, Reece said.  

"Any grandparent raising a grandchild or other kinship caregiver who would like to be included, or if you would like to contribute to this worthwhile cause, please let me know," she said. 

For more information, contact Reece at (828) 828-265-5434, ext. 128, or at (