BENSON — The Community Food Pantry of Benson has added something new to its list of services.

As part of its monthly cooking class, the pantry now has community resource presenters to inform residents about different services they may need.

“Our cooking class is the third Friday of the month, and last Friday we had two representatives from SEAGO (SouthEastern Arizona Governments Organization) who talked about how to access programs SEAGO provides caregivers and seniors,” said Najayyah Many Horses, food pantry board president.

SEAGO Family Caregiver Support Program Coordinator Karen Enriquez and Health & Nutrition Coordinator Cynthia Meyers presented information about the SEAGO Area Agency on Aging resources. Because of COVID, Friday’s presentation represented their first in-person outreach session in over a year.

“We’re thrilled to be out in front of the public again,” Enriquez said. “We’re so glad the Food Pantry reached out to us for this opportunity to talk to all of you about our (SEAGO’s) services.”

At one time, SEAGO conducted all caregiver training in-person, but when COVID hit, Enriquez said the organization transitioned to webinar training.

“The shift meant that someone had to research the material, write it up, create a powerpoint, give the presentation live, record it, and put it on YouTube so it could be accessed,” Enriquez said. “So, the transition was a huge process, and was something we were doing twice a month.”

When attempting to access the information, some seniors and caregivers were faced with computer literacy barriers and struggled with devices and the internet.

“In an attempt to overcome those challenges, we now have a program called Trualta that we’re rolling out.”

Describing Trualta as a “skill-based online learning portal designed for families and caregivers,” Enriquez said the Trualta platform is co-branded with all of SEAGO’s information.

“You can actually go onto a portal and choose a training module that suits your needs,” she explained. “At some point in your life journey, you may need this information, and we now have the ability to provide that for you.”

Trualta’s online learning program includes articles, videos and professional-level training, Enriquez said.

“With Trualta, family caregivers are able to find local resources that help them care for their loved ones.”

Meyers also highlighted different support services available through SEAGO. As a former family caregiver herself, she said that knowing what resources are available is a huge benefit for the caregiver.

“Through SEAGO Area Agency on Aging, we have fall prevention programs, help those with food insecurity and offer family caregiver support services.”

Meyers said SEAGO’s goal is to support seniors and people with disabilities so they can maintain their independence safely at home.

“There are a lot of people who don’t even know these services exist, so it’s important that we take advantage of opportunities like this to get our information out there,” she said.

As a former caregiver herself, Meyers spoke of how SEAGO’s services helped her with her caregiving experience.

“Before I learned about SEAGO, I had been taking care of my father-in-law and spent years weeding through all the insurance programs and services available. It’s extremely time-consuming, even exhausting,” she said. “After I learned about SEAGO and started using the services this organization provides caregivers, it made a huge difference for me.”

Armed with the information she gleaned through SEAGO’s program, Meyers ran a caregiver support group until COVID stopped all in-person sessions.

“Having been a caregiver, I know all about the time, energy and stress that goes into helping a loved one in need,” she said. “The nice thing about the caregiver support group is that it allows you to talk about the challenges and stresses of caregiving with other people who are going through those same challenges. Caregiving is a role that comes with a lot of responsibility, a lot of fatigue and a lot of stress,” she said. “SEAGO’s caregiver outreach programs are huge in helping with that.”

Enriquez weighed in by noting caregiving can happen in an instant.

“You can be sitting at your desk at work, and get a call from a hospital emergency room,” she said. “All of a sudden you are the person responsible for that family member.”

Caregiving comes in all forms.

“You could start out by picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy for a friend. In another year, you could be making their meals, driving to doctor’s appointments or helping with things around the house. There are so many different variables with being a caregiver.”

When a caregiver calls SEAGO for advice or assistance, the person will go through an intake process. From there, the person is referred to a case manager who will assess the individual’s needs.

SEAGO has programs that focus on healthy eating and balance and exercises to help keep seniors mobile, and living at home as long as possible.