Discussing models for caregiver support at Grantmakers in Aging

Posted on November 02, 2011 by Michael Corley, consultant with The Patterson Foundation

I had the opportunity to participate in a presentation at the Grantmakers in Aging Conference last week in Washington DC with four other individuals.  The purpose of the presentation was to share three different models of caregiving support being tested as the result of a grant by The Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation.  (Weinberg funded 14 projects related to caregiving, however, only three were represented at this presentation.)

The models discussed were the Caregiver Champions project by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation in Pittsburgh, the Caregiver Connection Center by Real Services, the Area Agency on Aging in South Bend, and Caregiver Central by Share the Care in Orlando.

As I presented and listened, I continued to grow in my appreciation for the need to understand caregiving and what it means to be a caregiver. Why? Because most of us will be caregivers at some point in our lives! I also learned that there is no single perfect model of caregiver support.  On the contrary, the best caregiving support will likely be a blend of models currently being tested and tried around the country.

As a topic, there is a lot of very good information available about caregiving. A simple web search will provide volumes of information.  In addition, there are caregiving experts willing to share their wisdom to people who ask. The challenge is when one wants and needs very specific, local information and assistance.

Actually, I should correct myself. The challenge comes long before this – it is when someone is a caregiver and doesn’t know it or won’t admit it.

So, if we look at caregiving along a continuum, beginning with the person who doesn’t know he or she is performing caregiving functions, and continue to the person who is a 24/7 caregiver, we begin to see that the needs differ, and therefore the support mechanisms will differ.

The individual who is not aware that he or she is a caregiver needs information to help understand the situation they are in. Only after beginning to understand they are acting as a caregiver can they begin to understand services available.  The www.caregivercentral.org application is for this person. This is an online survey that asks individuals questions about what they are doing (caregiver related), and then based on the responses, produces suggested services and information.

For the individual who is aware that they need caregiving support and/or comfortable asking for help, the Caregiver Connection Center model being tested is a great approach. This is an actual center staffed by experts who can help caregivers identify local resources and approaches to keep the care-receiver in the home and not institutionalized.

In Pittsburgh, the Caregiver Champion model educates caregivers with the purpose of minimizing the stress involved in being a caregiver.  The approach to minimizing this stress is to involve caregivers in learning circles to educate them on various aspects of caregiving and create groups of individuals to provide support to each other.

Each of these works somewhere along the continuum. There are many other models out there, and my guess is, each has a place along the continuum.

Would you share your model with us via this blog?

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