Jackie Green visits her stepmother, Elise Monroe-Belton, at PruittHealth nursing and rehab center in Columbia. Photo by Travis Dove.

By Linda H. Lamb

When Jackie Green offered ideas on a new website for caregivers in the state, she kept thinking about the years she helped take care of her stepmother, then in her 80s.

“I had to learn how to get help for her,” Green said, describing frustrating searches for services and information. State agencies helped steer her toward answers, but there were always more questions, on almost everything from financial aid to where to find pads for incontinence.

“It would have been helpful for me to be able to go to a website and find expanded information, instead of just getting some names of places for help,” said Green, 63, of Columbia.

A longtime volunteer for AARP South Carolina, Green was excited to advise the team that developed the new GetCareSC website (getcaresc.com).

It’s not only for people like Green—a retired environmental health manager who knows her way around a computer and smartphone—but also for those who are less tech savvy.

GetCareSC was rolled out to the public on Seniors Day at the South Carolina State Fair in October. It’s urgently needed, said Coretta Bedsole, associate state director for AARP South Carolina.

In 2014, AARP surveyed about 800 state residents 45 and older to learn about their priorities. “The thing they needed the most, they said, was good information on what services were available,” Bedsole said.

An existing state database for caregivers was clunky to use, hard to update and incomplete. As a committee of advocates discussed residents’ needs, equipped with a $250,000 corporate grant, they envisioned a more useful site.

They thought about family members facing difficult choices for long-term care, patients just out of the hospital who had trouble getting around, and a dementia patient’s spouse who needs time to run errands or relax.

“The idea is for this to help people with the various crises of caregiving,” Bedsole said.

To serve a range of caregivers, GetCareSC had to offer a range of functions. It had to be comprehensive, current and simple to search, with access available by personal computer, notebook or smartphone.

Easy-to-use site
As advocates heard from people like Green, they learned that even the site’s wording posed challenges, said Rene Beard, who led the project on behalf of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging.

For example, advocates know what “respite care” means—helping caregivers take a break from their tasks—but others may not.

The committee brought in Cyberwoven, a website design firm in Columbia. Dan Hoover, Cyberwoven vice president, and Lisa Thomason, content strategist, said they aimed to create a well-organized site anyone could use.

GetCareSC has a clean, simple look and features a search function that can be narrowed to a person’s zip code. The site includes information from state agencies, private organizations, advocacy groups and care providers.

An important feature, Thomason said, is that the user’s closest Area Agency on Aging appears on-screen and offers a phone number for more help.

“Some people really prefer to call,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that no one hits a dead end when they’re looking for information.”

In focus groups with caregivers, “it was fascinating to hear how earnestly they were seeking support – hearing the frustration in their voices,” Hoover said. “We hope this really helps them take care of those they love.”

Linda H. Lamb is a writer living in Columbia.