Supporting the often-overlooked caregivers of our community
By Pam Kamphuis and Amber S. Pointer-Ayala
Tom from Warrenton and his wife Karen, whom he was caring for, had not had anything but fast food meals for more than a week. His wife had always been the homemaker and prepared all the meals. When she became disabled and Tom became her full time caregiver, he had no idea how to cook. He also had no idea how to use some of the equipment necessary for her care, such as a lift to help her get out of bed.
Sam from Marshall was a young man who was helping to move his grandmother into his mother’s house because she needed additional care. In the process, he realized that he needed to move in himself and become the full time caregiver. He was completely blindsided and had no idea what to do. His life had just changed dramatically, and he didn’t know how to cope.
These types of situations are where Cornerstone Cares, a ministry of Cornerstone Baptist Church that assists the caregivers of ill or elderly loved ones, comes in. Sara Amos, program director, said, “Where we are most impactful is in those first few days of bewilderment. We can come in and guide caregivers to resources in the community that will help them, or just provide companionship and emotional support.” In the case of Tom, the Cornerstone Cares community and church brought healthy meals for him and his wife for two weeks. In the case of Sam, CC offered emotional support and referrals to services he would need.
As our aging population increases, many are finding out that caring for an elderly or ill person full time requires a huge investment of time and energy and can be emotionally draining. Often, caregivers become so preoccupied with giving care that their own social, emotional, and physical needs are left on the back burner. They may not even realize they need support.
The genesis of Cornerstone Cares came in August of 2019 when members of the church were searching for a mission to help those in the community. Influenced by church members with experience in caregiving, they decided to put their efforts into helping caregivers, giving them the support that they so badly need and don’t often get.
With the support of Mike Poff, the current pastor of the church, and a grant of over $50,000 from local pillar The Path Foundation, they were up and running. Kirsten Dueck, the senior program officer at PATH, said, “At The Path Foundation, we are aware that providing care for a loved one can take a heavy toll on the family caregiver, who may also be in need of comfort and support. This grant enabled Cornerstone Cares to expand and make more of a positive impact in our community.”
What sets Cornerstone Cares apart from other organizations is that they have mastered the art of empathy for our local caregivers. While they do not offer medical help or advice and do not, at this time, provide respite care themselves, their mission is to better the quality of life for this overlooked group through referrals for all types of assistance, informative workshops, advice, social interaction, and plain old companionship and emotional support.
Recently, we sat down with its program director, Sara Amos, who was warm, articulate, and compassionate. As a child, Sara had a close relationship with her grandmother, which developed her passion for senior adults and increasing their quality of life through recreational programs and friendship. A Fauquier resident, she initially helped with the program from afar assisting with grant writing requests. In August of 2019, she came on board full time where her education in human development, master’s in recreational therapy, and experience in adult day care make her shine as the group’s leader.
Currently, there are six to eight volunteers in the program. After Cornerstone Cares supported Annie Marie McCarty through her husband’s final illness and death, she wanted to give back what they had given to her. When she became a volunteer herself, she discovered that “you can give out your caregiving to others who are in need, and you can receive it too.”
When things return to normal following the pandemic, Cornerstone Cares hopes to add more volunteers to its roster. A future goal of the program is to have their volunteers provide respite care, which is not something they can offer now. That would entail a volunteer sitting with a loved one while the caregiver is out of the house. During this visit, the volunteer would offer non-medical supervisory care until the caregiver returns.
Sometimes a loved one needs more care than a volunteer can provide, such as an RN or CNA. In these situations CC is able to offer stipends for brief, occasional caregiver respites from their respite fund to pay for these professionals.
Both the respite fund and the respite volunteer care are meant to enable caregivers to take a well-deserved break, go to a doctor’s appointment, grocery shopping, or just plain get out of the house for their own mental wellness.
Sara said, “The biggest reward in this mission is seeing a caregiver come to life when they realize they are being cared for themselves. A lot of them have had to give up their free time, financial security, or their own health. They’re just grateful to know someone cares about them. You can just see the weight lift off their shoulders and a light return to their eyes.”
A ministry of Cornerstone Baptist Church
40 Rock Pointe Ln, #202, Warrenton
Any caregivers in need of support are welcome to contact CC for support
Family caregivers in Fauquier, Rappahannock, and Northern Culpeper Counties who are caring for an individual over 60 years of age who is suffering from a chronic condition such as dementia, Parkinson’s, or cancer are encouraged to apply for a stipend.
Want to help?
Donations and volunteers are always welcome.