Giving caregivers a much-needed break

Published on: January 2, 2019

Dolores Berens, 91, is president of the Samaritan Alzheimer’s Auxiliary and has overseen its operation for the past 20 years. The auxiliary provides free respite service to caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients in Sun City Center.

Samaritan Alzheimer’s Auxiliary

gives caregivers a much-needed break


Dolores Berens has dedicated the past two decades helping those who care for others.

Assisted by a small group of dedicated volunteers, the 91-year-old board member of Samaritan Services, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, has overseen its Samaritan Alzheimer’s Auxiliary, a division providing respite for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients in Sun City Center.

“She’s done a tremendous job as the auxiliary’s president all these years,” said Lee Leverett, Samaritan Services president. “She’s always available to answer questions and assist in any way she can.”

This month, the auxiliary celebrates its 20th anniversary.

“In 1998, a committee of the Samaritan Services Support Group decided it was time to do something to relieve the caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients,” Berens said. “We had a Chocolate Extravaganza fundraiser that year and used the proceeds as seed money to start respite care.”

Through partnerships with area assisted living facilities, day cares and home-health-agencies, the Samaritan Alzheimer’s Auxiliary began offering its respite services officially on Jan. 1, 1999, and began offering caregivers the break they both needed and deserved.

“The reason we started this was not for the Alzheimer’s patient,” Berens said. “It was for the caregiver who needed to take some time for their personal needs.”

Here’s how the free program works: On an annual basis, the auxiliary will pay for an Alzheimer’s patient to stay in a partnering assisted living facility for up to seven days; or cover the cost for someone from a home health agency to come in and provide replacement care for up to 50 hours; or pay the expense of having the Alzheimer’s patient attend day care at a partnering senior center for up to 50 hours.

The following organizations are Samaritan Auxiliary partners: Sun Towers, Cypress Creek, Sun City Center Senior Living and Belvedere Commons assisted living centers; and Hanson Services, Comfort Keepers, Senior Helpers, First Light Home Care, Right at Home and Seniors Helping Seniors in-home care services.

Berens knows firsthand the importance of taking a break from caregiving.

“Five members of my family had Alzheimer’s, and I was a caregiver for both of my husbands, who are now passed,” she said. “My heart goes out to anyone who must care long-term for someone who is sick.

“Caregivers work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Berens continued. “They desperately need some relief to care for themselves.”

Over the 20 years the Samaritan Alzheimer’s Auxiliary has been serving the community, 523 people have either received or are currently eligible to receive its respite services, when and if they’re needed.

More information and applications for the respite service are available at the Samaritan Services office, 1207 N. Pebble Beach Blvd., or by calling 813-634-9283.

The respite services provided by the Samaritan Alzheimer’s Auxiliary are funded solely through donations from individuals and community groups like the Sun City Center bridge clubs; SCC German American Club; Ladies of the Ancient Order of Hibernians; GFWC SCC Woman’s Club; Kings Point Vesta Services; SCC Lapidary Club and Kevin Brooks Music.

All donations are tax deductible, and any amount is appreciated.