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Posted: January 19, 2005

Professional Caregiving

Everybody Wins: Caring for Caregivers On-Site

Across the country, new programs are sprouting up designed to educate the growing number of caregivers about their self-care issues and to provide needed support by helping to lighten their burden and minimize their stress.

Fortifying information, support services and resources this way will enable caregivers to continue caring for their loved one at home. In all of the research that has been done, first and foremost, caregiver stress is the one characteristic that has the greatest impact on the quality of care provided and the length of time the care can be provided.

With this in mind, those of us who represent caregiving services expand our offerings to increase support for the family members of our clients. Some services may look like a laundry list of weekend errand stops, but that is the point. The more we can make our settings meet the one-stop-shopping needs for our clients, the less caregivers need to pack into their weekend and evening to-do lists related to caregiving responsibilities.

Many adult day centers, for example, throughout the country offer a variety of ancillary services, such as podiatry, audiology screening, hair dresser, and massage therapy. I have even heard of centers serving as dry cleaning drop off sites where bus drivers deliver the laundry to the cleaners and bring it back so caregivers can pick up their cleaning while picking up their family member from the center.

Have you explored the possibility of making dinner meals available, by reservation only, if coming home at the end of the day makes it difficult for working caregivers to prepare a healthy, balanced meal for their family? Sites that have access to meal services can offer a family caregiver meal pick up, similar to the ?Gourmet to Go? concept. Again, after a long day at the office, a caregiver can pick up and take home a pre-ordered, prepared meal for the family, or frozen meals for their loved one, to be heated at home, thus reducing the caregiver?s need for meal preparation at mom?s for the week ahead.

Massage therapists can be available to indulge clients, their caregivers and even the staff at the facility! Trained, licensed massage therapists can be an invaluable resource to families. They can do a wonderful job working on tired muscles and stressed bodies. After a massage, you feel refreshed and ready to go again! Whether professional caregiver staff, family or client, this could be a marketing bonanza in your community. I have treated our families to a massage sampling at our family caregiver support groups, to give them a way to experience it without the initial expense. Once tried, you often have takers who want more, and if you can offer a rate based on minutes -- say, a 10 minute minimum for $10 -- then it is much more affordable to some who might otherwise not feel they can afford a 30- or 60-minute massage.

Using the one-stop-shopping concept and making these and other services available at your site can reduce the number of errands our family caregivers must do in order to keep their family member properly cared for. Each of these services can be arranged through the manager, or scheduled weekly as permitted.

You might be interested in exploring services your family caregivers might take advantage of. You can send out a survey and see what ideas you collect. It is critical to our planning to hear exactly what other services we could offer that our families would be willing to use if we were to make them available.

All of these issues bring us back to the initial topic raised -- caregiver support. Care providers want to know how to best support the caregivers of their clients and residents, so they also sustain their health and well being while taking on the big job of caring for a loved one. Caregivers can?t hear this too often: If they don?t take care of themselves, they will not be able to take care of their loved ones. As a professional care provider, you can facilitate the accessibility of ancillary or support services to lighten your caregiver?s load.

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Sylvia Nissenboim is a licensed clinical social worker and who has been working in the field of adult day services in the St. Louis area. She is the director of four adult care and enrichment centers for the American Red Cross and also operates a personal and professional coaching firm, LifeWork Transitions, specializing in caregiving concerns, adult day care management and other aging services, such as virtual coaching and family care giving support groups. She co-authored The Positive Interactions Program, is a national speaker, and has served as president of the Missouri Adult Day Care Association and as a member of the Missouri Governor's Advisory Council on Aging..

© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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