At the recent 45th anniversary celebration for the Area Agency on Aging there was laughter and fun, and many things to think about.
One moment seemed to touch everyone in the room: when Caregiver of the Year Award winner Connie Rice shared her thoughts.
After caring for her father and mother until their deaths, her caregiving continues indefinitely for her young adult daughter, who requires total care, unable to do even the simplest tasks others would take for granted, like standing, sitting up, holding things or talking.
Connie’s calm and loving spirit strengthened everyone as she told how she worked to keep herself and daughter healthy “... so we can be on this Earth a long time.”
In any gathering anywhere, there are caregivers in the room. Rosalyn Carter once said, “There are only two kinds of people in the world, those who are caregivers, and those who will be caregivers.” We love, we care.
Often caregivers feel isolated – an odd phenomenon for a nearly universal role, but also understandable as we’re all on our own unique journey, none quite the same as another.
November is National Family Caregivers Month. Initially established by President Bill Clinton in 1997, by presidential proclamation, every president since has followed suit to recognize and honor family caregivers.
November is an appropriate month as there are so many holiday gatherings in the works. It’s important to raise awareness and support for family caregivers, celebrating their efforts.
How can we do this? First, it’s important to know there is growing awareness and support of caregiving nationally and locally.
In 2000, a National Family Caregiver Program was established through the federal Older Americans Act, linking agencies like this AAA to support the estimated 65 million-plus people, nearly 30 percent of the general population, providing care for an older adult, or someone living with illness or disability. There are numerous websites and tools for basic learning.
Check out the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging website at www.n4a.org, click “Aging Services” on the home page, and you’ll see a link to Caregiving. Common topics and other reputable websites with great information are easily searchable from there – a number with links to online caregiver support groups.
Part and parcel of the National Family Caregiver Program is the Eldercare Locator. So many of us need to support loved ones living apart from us, sometimes far away.
By calling the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116, you can talk directly to trained staff about caregiving. They can also transfer you directly to local experts covering all zip codes in all states and U.S. territories.
If you visit www.eldercare.acl.gov, you can enter the zip code or state of a place you’re interested in directly and call yourself. Also, at the bottom of the home page, you can click on a “Monthly Feature.” This month’s feature has great information on long-distance caregiving.
Of course, locally, always know the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 rings to AAA’s call center and is a terrific first step on all kinds of issues. AAA staff personally responded to more than 14,000 contacts involving more than 6,500 people through the Info-Line last year – 90 percent of which were answered live.
On the home page of our website, www.areaagencyonaging.org, you can click “Caregivers” to sign up for Caregiver News, a free bi-monthly newsletter providing critical information enabling you to provide care for your loved one with confidence, pride and competence.
Also on the homepage, click “Classes” to learn about university-sanctioned classes throughout Southwest Michigan. Watch for Powerful Tools for Caregivers for ideas on varied types of situations, and Creating Confident Caregivers to learn specifically about caring for someone with dementia. They’ll be worth your time.
Every family is on a journey together. Reach out to the caregivers in your family to support them and see if you can help. If you’re a primary caregiver, know you’re not alone.
Lynn Kellogg is CEO of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Saturday in The Herald-Palladium.