Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Thanksgiving Story

Three Thanksgivings ago we sat down at the extended table with our extended family and felt so incredibly blessed we could barely speak. My father had survived a small stroke; my husband’s father had survived a heart attack and bypass surgery. We didn’t expect to all be together that year, but we were.

A year later, my father was dead and my mother in the hospital, unable to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. We rushed, somewhat numbly, through dinner, avoiding the traditional recitation of blessings.

This year feels a little like that particular Thanksgiving, on a global scale. It’s hard to find things to be thankful for (if you actually open your investment reports). It can be frightening, as companies and individuals we have long looked up to for leadership are faltering – maybe even failing.

And yet. Today the sun shone through the piles of golden leaves. I walked to work the long way, savoring perhaps the last nice morning of the month, feeling healthy, alive and filled with thanks.

Today, we had a chance to help a whole group of individuals begin their journey to become caregivers and nursing assistants. We connected with business associates who are challenged but persevering; and several who are thriving.

My children are spread out all over the globe; one in India and one in Israel. They’re studying, volunteering, and traveling. They’re excited about their adventures and fully engaged in their work of growing into global citizens.

Our table will be a little lighter this year for Thanksgiving dinner. Our bank accounts and investment portfolios are certainly a lot lighter. But when I count my blessings this year – out loud – the list will be long.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Caregiver Stress study confirms daily family experience

Today's Washington Post article titled "When the caregiver becomes the patient" put numbers to what caregivers - both professional and family caregivers - experience every day: caregiving is stressful.

In fact, caregiving is so stressful that, according to the article, 25% of caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease end up in the emergency room or hospital every 6 months - at least once. The study doesn't compare this rate to the rate for non-caregivers, but my gut tells me its many, many times higher.

One of the researchers went so far as to suggest that we start thinking of both the person with the AD diagnosis and their family caregiver both as "patients." Clearly, caregivers end up as literal patients far too frequently.

What this means to us as a society is significant, too. With the number of individuals with Alzheimer's disease expected to grow from the current estimate of 4 million to 18.5 million in the coming 40 years, perhaps we should be thinking in terms of double that number of individuals who need to be considered in future health care planning.

And with the state of our health care system, how we can provide compassionate, appropriate care to those individuals - both with Alzheimer's and those who care for them?

Clearly, we need to find as many ways as possible to support family caregivers today, right now. And we need to plan for - and budget for - ongoing support for these individuals so that they, too, do not become victims of a devastating disease.

Give a caregiver in your life a gift of training and support.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Caregivers get increased training requirements but may also gain in status with Washington’s new Initiative 1029

This month’s election has produced results that will change the face of our nation – and I don’t mean that as literally as a lot of political pundits do when they talk about the groundbreaking nature of having the first African American president.

In my mind, we crossed that barrier about 3 seasons ago on “24”…but that’s another story!

The changes I’m thinking about relate to caregiver training. In Washington, an initiative mandating increased training for caregivers passed by a wide margin. The initiative’s backers (full disclosure – it was backed to the tune of millions of dollars by the SEIU) got the public’s attention by pointing out that caregivers in Washington require less training that hair dresser or dog groomers.

Many providers are concerned with this new mandate for training. They know, with the turnover of caregiving staff, that the cost will be high to gain compliance. It will add an extra layer of overhead to a home care agency that will, inevitably, get passed on somewhere (any guesses?).

But at the same time I can’t help but wonder if increasing the training requirements of caregivers may help them gain status and respect. Perhaps, if we require something akin to licensing, we will recognize the value of these workers. We may even – gasp – increase pay and benefits for this group of chronically undervalued workers.

As my mother grows older, and my own years seem to rapidly move toward the “senior” classification, I know that I find much more compelling the need to respect caregivers who may someday – soon – be caring for my mom or me.

Baby steps…

Holiday Gift Ideas for Caregivers

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Caregiver Certification Course provides comprehensive online training for in-home, assisted living staff

This month has been proclaimed National Family Caregiver Month. It's also the month that our team at aQuire Training has completed and launched the new Caregiver Certification Course.

Caregiver training is a nationwide issue as the number of seniors needing some sort of assistance balloons in the coming years. Just a few days ago, in fact, Washington State voters approved a new bill which would more than double current caregiver training requirements.

PHI, the direct care worker's advocacy and support organization led this week's newsletter with this bold headline: "PHI Project finds less turnover with more training." Turnover is one of the biggest challenges in providing uninterrupted quality care to the most vulnerable citizens.

These issues reflect the growing awareness that caregivers must have more than just minimal training to provide the quality of care we all want for our aging loved ones.

aQuire Training's Caregiver Certification Course, designed for in-home and assisted living caregivers, includes training in ethics, client’s rights, and elder abuse as well as training in emergency first aid, personal care and assistance with daily living tasks like mobility, bathing, and toileting. Throughout the course students are taught to respect the individual’s rights to privacy and dignity and provide care in such a way that the person’s independence is enhanced and supported rather than removed. The entire course provides a comprehensive program of more than 40 hours of caregiver training.

What a perfect gift to give a family caregiver. I know that if someone was caring for my mother in her home, I'd feel much more confident if I knew that the caregiver had extra training and skills.

This course has been endorsed by Casualty and Surety of New York, a company providing liability insurance to senior care providers, as a course that “is comprehensive and yet provided in an easy-to-understand presentation,” says David G. Condon, President of the company. Caregiver training is a known approach to reducing liability risks for senior care communities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Condon notes.

The course will also be used in parts of Canada as a tool to train respite caregivers. Respite caregivers provide much-needed relief for family caregivers through a government supported program there.

It's a privilege to join in the celebration during National Family Caregiver Month of some of the hardest working individuals, whose labor is too often unnoticed and unappreciated.