Local News and Stories

Services for Caregivers of Alaska Native Elders

I am so blessed to be a part of Catholic Community Service and have a small part in all the good work our Catholic Charity does for individuals and families in Southeast Alaska.

Catholic Community Service is well known for operating 11 senior centers, Meals on Wheels, Care-A-Van paratransit and senior rides, and Hospice and Home Care of Juneau. Howerver, I’d like to share a bit about a program you may not be aware of and encourage you to call us if you know of anyone who might benefit from this program that most folks don’t even realize we operate!

God Bless, Erin Walker-Tolles, Executive Director


Erin Walker-Tolles

Southeast Senior Services, a division of CCS, has been serving seniors in Southeast Alaska since 1974, promoting the health, independence and quality of life of seniors in Southeast Alaska. The services we offer are part of a larger network of care across Southeast and would not be possible without the partnership of so many—the state of Alaska, local government, generous donors, and local tribes.

A service that many don’t realize we offer is support for Caregivers of Alaska Native Elders. This year, the federal funding that tribes share with us was increased to better serve and support caregivers of Alaska Native Elders!

So, who is a “caregiver?” People are sometimes a little confused by the term “caregiver.” Some think that it means someone who is paid to provide care to an elder, others think “caregiver” means someone who lives with an elder and provides 24-hour care. Sometimes people think that “caregivers” must be a family member caring for an older relative.

However, for the purposes of our Caregiver Support Program, a “caregiver” is ANYONE who is looking out for an elder. Whether you are a neighbor, friend or family member, if you care about an Alaska Native Elder and want to help them, you are a caregiver!

Thanks to partnerships with local tribes, Southeast Senior Services has case managers and advocates dedicated to supporting caregivers to help the elders in their lives.

What help do caregivers need so they can help elders? In our experience, it’s not always simple for caregivers to help the elder they care for. From time to time the need may be simple. (For example, when an elder with poor vision needs help to apply for heating assistance so they can be warm this winter.)

But, often being a caregiver can be very challenging. When an elder is struggling, it can be difficult to know exactly what the next best step is. Even if a caregiver knows what help the elder really needs, negotiating the social service and health care system can be very complicated. In some communities, especially our small remote villages, there aren’t a lot of services available locally. Some caregivers work so hard to help the elders in their life that they can become exhausted and could use some support and encouragement too!

So, how can Catholic Community Service help caregivers of Alaska Native Elders?

The simple answer is “call us and find out,” especially if you care but don’t know where to start!

Catholic Community Service doesn’t just connect elders with the meals, rides and case management. We also provide help to caregivers and elders to apply for assistance programs to get basic needs for food, shelter and heat.

Many elders need some level of support at home, with chores or other daily tasks, to live at home safely and with dignity. And that means negotiating the complex social service and health care system to get the right help.

Sometimes having a conversation about how an elder gets through their day will help us to provide caregivers a way to extend years of independence and improve quality and enjoyment of life for the elder they care for.

We can talk you through the challenges you and your elder are facing and come up with resources and a plan. We can also meet with the elder you care about and learn from them what their personal goals and concerns are. We are here to support, offer resources and advise you on what is possible, and help you to start making plans for when independent living is no longer an option.

So, why should you call Catholic Community Service for Caregiver Support?

Because you don’t have to provide care all on your own! We believe, just like you do, that Alaska Native Elders, and all seniors, are a vital part of Southeast Alaska. Their wisdom, humor, stories, and love, enrich our communities and our lives. It’s our mission to help caregivers and elders to continue to live a healthy, happy, independent life in their home and community for as long as possible.

Don’t forget we are here for all seniors age 60 and up in Southeast Alaska! Most services are free of charge (and for those few we charge for, we never deny help due to inability to pay).

So if you care about an Alaska Native Elder and have a question about how we might help, please call our Senior & Caregiver Resource Center at 463-6177 or toll-free (866)746-6177 so we can connect you with local help!