Helping the helpers: Wayne State Social Work launches older adult caregiver support helpline


Caregiver Support Helpline PDF Flyer

The Wayne State University School of Social Work has launched a caregiver support helpline for older adult caregivers in the HOPE Village region of central Detroit.

Funded as part of the Wayne State University (WSU) $2 million award to provide health care service to low-income older adults as part of Connecting Seniors, the helpline is one of seven WSU virtual healthcare programs developed for older adults and their caregivers. Connecting Seniors, a collaborative effort to close the generational digital divide, is made possible by a $3.9 million grant from the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities Rapid Response Initiative to the Connect 313 Fund. Administered by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the Connect 313 Fund was created in 2020 to support digital inclusion efforts across the region.

Helping to care for an older adult can be hard work, and can take an unseen toll on the caregiver. Caregivers are faced with additional stress related to their close proximity to those who are in crisis. They may, on a daily basis, experience intense grief, ethical dilemmas, and fears about the well-being of themselves, their clients and family members. The helpline is intended to reach caregivers who require immediate support and assistance navigating the stressors presented by this novel virus in the HOPE Village area. The HOPE Village, which is comprised of roughly 100 blocks that intersect North Central Detroit and Highland Park, is home to Focus: HOPE and other community-serving institutions including two K-8 Charter Schools: NPFE Glazer Academy and Joy Preparatory Academy.

Staffed by Social Work faculty, professionals and supervised students working in gerontology, the helpline provides emotional support, resources and referral services for the caregiver and the person they care for. Helpline services are free and completely confidential. Live representatives are available at varying times (see below), including weekend and evening hours or callers can leave a message at any time and a representative will return the call. Communication can be adopted for text and email contact, including follow-up and continued support through December 30, 2020.

Caregiver Support Helpline: 1-800-854-1506

Helpline Hours:

  • Monday: 12 – 4 pm
  • Tuesday: 12 – 8 pm
  • Wednesday: 10 am – 2 pm
  • Thursday: 8 am – 12 pm, 2 pm – 6 pm
  • Friday: 9 am – 1 pm, 3 pm – 7 pm
  • Saturday: 9 am – 5 pm

For over 85 years, the School has been committed to listening to the needs of fellow Detroiters and rallying the assets of our community partners to empower social change in our community. This has been evident throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen social work faculty, staff and students partner with area hospitals to create care packages for those hospitalized with COVID-19, organize case management for COVID-19 mobile testing sites, compile Detroit area community resource lists and create a myriad of expert tip sheets on subjects such as anxiety management and parenting tips for dads during COVID-19. Lead by Associate Professor Suzanne Brown, the helpline builds off the infrastructure created by Brown for the frontline healthcare and first responder support hotline established in April 2020 for those fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.

The health and wellbeing of Detroiters is vital to the success of our urban home community. As social workers, we have seen the devastating toll COVID-19 has had on Detroit. For those caring for vulnerable populations this is amplified, as they are often the last to reach out for help and self-care. Creating this support helpline has given us the opportunity to help Detroit's helpers. – Suzanne Brown