Category Archives: The Faith Community

The Importance of Education for Informal Caregivers

Members of the First United Methodist Church in Arlington Heights, IL attend an Eldercare Educational Program about Understanding the Continuum of Eldercare.

Today, family members and other private individuals provide the bulk of care for frail older adults. According to The National Alliance for Caregiving, approximately 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the prior 12 months.  The assigned dollar value of unpaid caregiving is a staggering $470 billion.

Informal caregivers are a critical link in the system of eldercare. The care and support that is provided delays, and may even prevent the need for institutional care. Equally, we must acknowledge the financial impact that the informal caregiving system has on our nation. Consider the increased stress on the Medicaid system without these caregivers.

The American Association of Retired Persons offers a terrific directory of resources available to family caregivers. There are many agencies, both public and private, that exist to provide resources for family caregivers. To that end, caregivers can access website links, pamphlets, resource guides, and a plethora of other informational sources.

Importance of Education for Caregivers

Yet, with all of these resources, so many family caregivers still feel lost and overwhelmed. I have observed many caregivers who don’t know what they don’t know.  In addition, it is paralyzing for them to know where to start.

Caregiver education should be a more robust component of our eldercare system.  Education that leads to increased knowledge is necessary so that people can feel empowered and access the correct resources.

Caregivers need to understand the process of aging.  As astutely stated by The Age-u-cate Training Institute, it is hard to care for someone that you don’t understand.  Consequently, when caregivers feel like they are in the dark, stress, and frustration ensues.  Therefore, helping caregivers to understand what is going on will better equip them to find the right resources and ask the right questions.  Knowledge is empowering.

To list, a sample of educational topics for caregivers:

Creating opportunities to provide knowledge will increase understanding and compassion, reduce stress, and strengthen the process of caregiving.  In addition, it will improve the relationships between caregiver and receiver.

 

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving for family and professional caregivers.  She is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

A Special Grandparent’s Day

Lessons from an old tree.

You might be wondering why a picture of an old tree? This tree caught my attention while on a walk through a nearby forest preserve. I studied its shape, holes, splinters, and ragged edges. I didn’t know then why it captivated me so, but it did.

This tree, such as it is, a shell of itself from long ago still stands. How miraculous is this? Despite the trauma over the years, damaging winds, hail, heavy snow and ice, it still stands. Indeed, time is stamped on this tree, and its roots are weaker and deteriorated.  But it stands proudly, majestically demonstrating its resilience and strength.

I’ll call her Matilda (my grandmother’s name). Imagine the experiences she lived through and the stories she could tell. If only we had the opportunity to learn from this wise old oak. I would love to know what this forest preserve was like 50 or maybe even 100 years ago.

I speculate that sometimes Matilda had to dig deep for water and call on strength to brace against the hard times. But, she also got to bask in the glory of the nourishing sun and gentle rains and was probably thankful for the good times.  Her wisdom is unmatched in the forest, I am sure.

Matilda likely housed many critters over the years and created a safe space for them to call home. How many different species did she encounter over time? Insects, rodents, mammals, birds, canines felines, all in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Some may have taken advantage of her, but hopefully, most treated her with kindness and respect.

A Little Extra for Grandparents Day

This tree personifies grandparents for me, and that’s why I admire it so much.  I think it is true that you don’t know what you had until it is gone.  Three of my grandparents didn’t see me graduate from high school, and the last, my grandfather, died when my daughter was six years old.  She has only a faint memory of him.

It’s not too late to extend Grandparent’s day.   I know I would if I could.

I attribute my love for working with and advocating for the welfare of older adults to the loving relationship I had with both sets of grandparents. The memories I have of them all fill my heart with that longing to have just one more conversation.

Grandparents deserve to be celebrated! Congress had this right in 1978 when Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation.

If you have the good fortune to have a living grandparent, learn all you can from your beautiful, wise tree.

 

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving for family and professional caregivers.  She is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Sandwich Generation Realities

The sandwich generation reality is in full force as more men and women are caught in the middle of work, raising a family, and caring for their parents.

My friends and I often contemplate how we got to this point in life so fast. It wasn’t that long ago that we talked about babies, toddlers, and teenagers. Now, we find ourselves in that sandwich generation place. Our kids are older, and so are our parents. Caught in the middle of work, young adult children’s life events, and aging parents.

The aging-brain is complex, and my friends scramble to keep ahead of the curve-ball.  There are good days, and then the bad days for no apparent reason. A solution that works one day doesn’t work the next. They work hard to anticipate and prevent the next crisis.

I am often baffled to find the right words to help my friends. It is not easy to explain-away their parent’s irrational behaviors and illogical thoughts. The guilt that my friends experience as they try and make things OK for their parents is so hard to see.  My heart aches for them because they feel like they should be doing more despite the fact that they are extraordinary caregivers.

Always Parent and Child

I know from my own experience that parents don’t wish this for their children.   Parents who once provided the caregiving are now the care-receiver, however, the roles are not reversed.  My friends know that they will always be their parent’s child, and their parent isn’t a child.

Anger can also be a factor in this turbulent time. My friend shared today that her mother yelled at her for not understanding what she is going through.  That doesn’t feel good, for sure.

The remarkable thing is the resilience that my friends demonstrate. They are grateful to still have a parent in their life.  Frustration and exacerbation are factors, but bitterness and anger are not.

So what can we do for the friends among us who are in this role of elder-caregiver?  The Alzheimer’s Association has a long list of suggestions, and here are mine.

    • Listen. Let them tell you their stories- sometimes venting is just what they need
    • Avoid issuing unsolicited advice
    • Support with words of affirmation that they are doing a good job
    • Be a friend, not an expert (my lesson)
    • A brownie delivery every once in a while doesn’t hurt!

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  Julie provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving to private and professional caregivers.  She is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.

Dementia-Friendly Faith Communities: Let’s Get Started

Faith communities should start to think about creating a culture of acceptance for persons with dementia.

Many faith communities find themselves investing in worship experiences that will attract younger members.  However, it is just as essential to keep older members engaged and attending worship services, including those with dementia.

Faith often plays a vital role in the lives of persons with dementia and their family members.  But, the presence of dementia can greatly interfere with a person’s ability to actively engage in their faith community.

Becoming a dementia-friendly congregation will create an open and welcoming environment for all.  It is an initiative that can be embraced by all members, regardless of age.  Faith communities are stronger when they recognize the value of multi-generational connection and interaction.

Dementia-Friendly Transformation

Church leaders can begin by calling upon professional community resources to educate congregational members about the needs of persons with dementia.

We should dispel notions that people with dementia are incapable of benefitting from worship.  As a result,  persons with dementia can be more easily understood and accepted with compassion and lack of judgment.

Recognizing when someone stops attending is a good first step.  Leaving the house alone as the disease progresses is very overwhelming and leads to isolation. Mobilizing volunteers to reach out and offer transportation could help them hold on to their faith a little longer.

Start with Small Changes

Begin with simple changes to assist persons with dementia to better navigate their way around the church. Therefore, consider forming a group of volunteers, with specialized training, to serve as ambassadors to escort or sit with someone in need.

Create opportunities for purposeful engagement to keep them connected.  Serving as a greeter, wiping down tables after fellowship, or telling a bible story in Sunday school may be a possibility.

Dementia-friendly worship is best when it is inclusive and engaging.  In doing so, we help them stay close to God and honor the mothers and fathers of our faith.

Beth is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a compassionate professional with decades of experience as a Registered Nurse, caregiver, patient advocate, educator, and trainer.  Early in her career, Beth found her passion for working with elderly populations and their caregivers.  Living in the Green Bay/Fox Valley area with her husband, she enjoys driving a ski boat for barefoot or slalom water-skiers, playing board games or creating a new quilt.

Julie has worked in Aging Services for over 30 years and has been a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 1990. She is a Certified Master Trainer with the AGE-u-cate Training Institute. Through her company Enlighten Eldercare,  she provides training and educational programs on elder caregiving to private and professional caregivers.  She is an instructor and the Interim Director of Gerontology at Northern Illinois University and lives in the Chicago Northwest Suburb of Mount Prospect, IL.