“There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.” – Rosalynn Carter, Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, rosalynncarter.org
Care giving is the hardest job we will ever have. In Howard County alone there are between 4,000-5,000 informal unpaid caregivers for individuals over 65 years of age. That number does not take into consideration close to 1,000 grandparents 60+ years of age, responsible for grandchildren under the age of 18 years of age.
These numbers are on the conservative side considering how difficult it is to identify caregivers in the first place.
Love, duty, honor, and reciprocity are all words used to describe why loved-one’s care for one another. Most caregivers do what they do because it is a natural and integral part of their day-to-day lives. They give rides to doctor appointments, cook meals, deliver care to parents, children, spouses, friends, and most still work outside the home. It often takes a village to care for someone but too often people are doing it alone.
The Howard County Caregiver Support Program (CSP) is dedicated to finding caregivers and helping them through outreach, education, and supportive services. Our program provides an abundance of resources, and help accessing tools to better navigate caregiving efforts. It is our goal to ensure all caregivers are informed and supported by quality targeted services. A goal is to ensure that our caregivers understand they are just as important a part of the caregiving equation as their care recipient. When one is busy providing physical and emotional care for someone one often forgets about her or his own well-being, and that is where the CSP can help.
Education is a key component of the support we deliver. We host an annual caregiver conference offering education on pertinent topics. An array of exhibitors supply materials on a wide range of services and subject matter vital to caregivers. Along with education, socialization with one’s peers was also important. Attendees enjoy a day together talking and learning a lot about caregiving, but more importantly they realize they are not alone in walking this journey. Our 2018 Annual Caregiver Conference is scheduled for Saturday, March 3rd.
We encourage caregivers to engage with others whenever possible. Participating in support groups helps to continue these conversations and begin new ones. Support groups offer a confidential and caring forum where caregivers can talk about their joys, their struggles and in turn help each other. There is no way we can do it alone, and we shouldn’t have to. If support groups are not an avenue you wish to pursue then you may find educational sessions and classes to be a good alternative.
Powerful Tools for Caregivers is a 6-week evidence-based course designed with the caregiver’s well-being in mind. It offers the individual with a toolkit of self-care strategies to improve communications, reduce stress, talk through making tough caregiver decisions, and much more. This class is presented several times throughout the year.
Howard County Office on Aging and Independence (OAI) also gives year-round educational sessions on topics including dementia and Alzheimer’s-related topics, consumer protection and scams, communication, “Prepare to Care” presented by our Maryland Access Point (MAP) Specialists, and several sessions led by area experts in different realms of caregiving such as NAMI, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Association.
Two new exciting offerings coming in the Fall of 2017 are a Virtual Dementia Tour™ and Practical Skills for Caregivers.
The Virtual Dementia Tour™ will make its debut at this year’s 50+ Expo titled, “Preparedness, Information and Education.” The tour is an interactive tool and virtual learning session to experience and help understand dementia. Virtual Dementia Tour™ “Your Window into Their World,” guides participants through the mind of those with dementia using sensory tools and patented devices that will alter your senses. This program is designed to give the participant an interactive experience that will deepen one’s understanding of the physical and mental challenges faced by those living with dementia which will empower us to provide them with better care and support.
Practical Skills for Caregivers is a five-week series in partnership with Howard Community College and taught by educators at the School of Nursing. The course will provide learners with helpful information and useful strategies to take care of their loved ones at home. Topics will include: caring for people with dementia, how to prevent falls and injuries in the home, incontinence and the warning signs, medication management and safety, nutrition for the elderly, and taking care of the caregiver.
Even when we want to take care of our loved-ones at home, we cannot forget about the importance of respite. Every caregiver needs respite, and the Howard County Office on Aging and Independence has day programs to meet the needs of caregivers needing a break or assistance for their loved-ones. Connections Social Day Program is for adults needing guidance and supervision, while allowing them to stay active, have fun and still be connected to the community. A day might consist of exercise, memory enhancement and intergenerational programs, trips, music, games, art and much more. Programs are found at 3 convenient 50+ sites throughout the county; the Ellicott City 50+, North Laurel 50+ and Glenwood 50+ Centers.
Another very special program through the OAI is the Kindred Spirits Social Club offered at the Glen¬wood 50+ and N. Laurel locations. Kindred Spirits is a day program providing socialization, companionship, support, education, and a sense of purpose for those affected by those diagnosed with early stage memory loss. Daily activities may include music, yoga, art, pottery, educational program, trips, lunch and much more.
Sometimes we need someone to walk through our struggles with us, or a listening ear providing validation we are doing the right thing. At other times resources are the key to our caregiving success. Maryland Access Point (MAP) can help you navigate benefit programs, evaluate short and long-term needs, and give you referrals for or connect you to services and programs. You can contact them at 410-313-1234 (voice/relay).
The Caregiver Support Program services are not limited to the aging population. We aid persons caring for those with disabilities through our MAP Specialists or through a referral to our disability partner agency, Accessible Resources for Independence (410) 636-2274 (voice/relay). Both services offer resource navigation and, advocacy efforts. Howard County’s Office of ADA Coordination handles questions and concerns from the public regarding Howard County government’s compliance with the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act and other disability rights laws. The Office of ADA Coordination also serves as a resource to the public on other disability rights matters. The office can be reached at 410-313-6402 or 6431 (voice/relay).
Grandparents raising grandchildren are an underestimated source of caregiving in Howard County. As previously stated there are close to 1,000 grandparent caregivers, and we truly believe that number to be low as well. Through our caregiver grant program and work with the Office of Children and Families we hope to assist more and more grandparents each year who are taking on this very important job. Children and Families can be reached by calling 410-313-6060 or 2273 (voice/relay).
Never underestimate the power of support in whatever form it may take. The OAI is resource driven and here to help you plan for today and tomorrow. You don’t know where your caregiving journey will take you and the Caregiver Support Program is here to help and guide you while on the journey.
For information about the Caregiver Support Program, or about this article, please contact 410-313-5955 (voice/relay).