Care for those who are caregiversSep 11, 2023 03:08PM ● By Ella Joy Olsen
“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.” —Tia Walker, author of “The Inspired Caregiver”
Caregiving is hard work. Often unpaid. Often seemingly unappreciated by the one receiving care. And sometimes caregivers are the ones who need care.
In a CNN “Ted Talk,” Alexandra Drane, the co-founder of Rebel Health, and the Wellness Expert for Prudential said, “Forty-three percent of Americans are currently in the role of unpaid caregiver. And 70% of these caregivers have a mental health impact from it—anxiety, depression, substance abuse or suicidal thoughts. Worrying about the ones we love is normal, because we care. And sometimes it seems like there is no help for the caregiver.”
But in Salt Lake County, there is.
Salt Lake County Aging & Adult Services has a remarkable array of services available for caregivers. Accessing resources is easy. Look online at slco.org/aging-adult-services/caregiver-support/. Or call 385-468-3200.
A care support coordinator will respond to the unique caregiving situation, assess the individual needs, and direct the caregiver to services available. Maybe a caregiver could use a hand in providing meals, or securing a ride to a doctor. It might be in finding help with insurance paperwork or in learning behavior techniques to help calm a loved one.
One of the many programs available, one that has received a 2023 award from the National Association of Counties (NACo), is the Caregiver Talking Points Program. It was created using years of frontline caregiver experience and knowledge, and in honestly assessing the struggles faced while caregiving. The purpose of the program is to care for the caregiver, so they are better skilled at improving their own daily lives and managing their routine of caregiving.
These talking points can be used in a support group setting (in-person or virtual), or one-on-one with a case manager, or even as a worksheet to be completed at home.
“The simple act of caring is heroic.” —Edward Albert, American actor
The Caregiver Talking Points were created for non-professional caregivers: children, spouses, and friends. Givers who need a bite-sized education moment. Caregivers who may be part of the sandwich generation, caring for parents and their own children at the same time. Caregivers who are still working and are trying to get over the hurdle directly in front of them, before considering the next.
Or as Kathy Nelson, training specialist with Salt Lake County Aging & Adult Services and the primary author of the Caregiver Talking Points, said, “Imagine yourself looking at a charcuterie board and knowing you can simply take a few items off the board and then stop. You got what you needed and savored every bite. Now imagine your parent making you eat every crumb on your plate before you can get up from the table.
“A caregiver should not be required to sit through a six-part education series just to learn the one skill they need from chapter three, paragraph seven. If you want the buffet, and you have the time, please attend a longer program—those programs also have great value. But if you are a tired, burned-out caregiver you might need something more flexible—a bite-sized approach like the Caregiver Talking Points.”
“It is not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.” — Lena Horne, American dancer, actress, singer and civil rights activist
There are 25 Caregiver Talking Points covering a wide variety of care management subjects and skills needed by family, friends, and other caregivers as they journey through the continuum of care, from the first stages of caregiving to the very end.
Some talking points topics are: Setting Boundaries, Calming Behaviors, Arranging Care at Home, or Building Resilience. Here is a snippet from the Building Resilience talking point:
It is easy to drain energy and damage your ability to be resilient. Reviewing your current behaviors can show you why your resilience is depleted and provide ideas on how to rebuild your energy reserve. Here is an example:
• Energy draining behavior—I do not set good boundaries with mom. I do everything she wants right when she calls. I feel overwhelmed and I dread hearing the phone ring.
• Energy building behavior—I will put a notepad by mom’s phone. When she calls, I will have her write down what she needs. I will set aside Mondays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. to help her.
Which of your current behaviors is draining energy and damaging your ability to be resilient?
Feedback regarding the program has been positive. This quote is from online feedback to Aging & Adult Services, “I didn't realize until I sat down with the worksheet and really thought about it what behaviors were irritating and causing me stress. Once I identified an energy draining behavior of my loved one, I wrote down how I could answer her constant questions differently and to my amazement, I calmed down and she calmed down. Hooray!!”
And another, “There is so much useful and important information in these workshops that I don't even know where to start. The Arranging Care at Home worksheet was full of details to help me when I'm in a crisis mode and trying to work and take care of my immediate family. If I can't think clearly, I know I can call SLCo Aging and get some help there. These sessions have opened my eyes to see things and learn things I would never have known. They have relieved my stress so much!”
The Caregiver Talking Points program was one of the silver linings that came about during Covid-19. Trainers and case managers couldn’t go directly into homes, so they got creative and started teaching coping skills and talking points online. The program is fully funded by the county and is free and easily accessible to all caregivers and caregiving partners via no-cost PDF links.
Salt Lake County Aging & Adult Services is staffed by 250 employees and just over 2,400 volunteers. Visit slco.org/aging-adult-services/caregiver-support/.
“This getting old is getting old.” — Helen Romney Reese, former Murray resident, care receiver and reporter’s grandma λ