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Advocating for family caregivers

The theme for this year’s National Family Caregivers Month in November is “take care to give care,” a reminder that caregivers need to take steps to secure their own health and well-being while serving in the highly stressful role they are fulfilling.

Standing ready to advocate for family caregivers is Redwood Caregiver Resource Center (RCRC), which provides support and resources for family and other unpaid caregivers, from counseling to care planning.

“We have an expertise in caregiving for people with neurocognitive impairments, but we also serve families caring for frail elders and seniors caring for younger people who have disabilities,” Nancy Powers-Stone, Director of RCRC, said.

Caring for a loved one with dementia, resulting from Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions, makes caregiving for a family member even more challenging, because of the personality and cognitive changes taking place.

“That’s what makes Redwood Caregiver Resource Center different in our approach to families. It’s not a matter of simply saying ‘you need a hoyer lift,’ ‘you should get a ramp to make [getting around] easier,’ or ‘let me tell you about the disease process,’” Powers-Stone said. “We have mental health clinicians working with folks to say, ‘ah, we get it.’”

The support provided by the organization can extend throughout the course of caregiving. “There is nothing we can do to change the course of a degenerative disease or a chronic condition,” Powers-Stone said. “But we accompany families through diagnosis, in the trenches of caregiving, and even after the person has passed on.”

RCRC even assists caregivers once they are no longer able to care for family member at home. “With placement of a loved one in a residential care facility or skilled nursing facility comes a whole new set of caregiver challenges around guilt, grief, sadness, the practical issues of interfacing with staff, and advocacy for your frail loved one,” Powers-Stone said.

To help meet caregivers’ diverse range of needs, RCRC also works with and refers family caregivers to a wealth of resources in the community, including adult day programs, private case managers, geriatricians, diagnostic centers, home health agencies, discharge planners, the Food Bank and other “safety net” programs.

As a part of RCRC since 1987, Powers-Stone has developed an immense respect for the people who care for family members. “We really need to celebrate what these families do. We talk about heroes; these are regular folks who do this out of love and concern,” she said. “And there is a really fine line between love and obligation that caregivers walk every day. One day, they may say ‘I do this out of love,’ the next day they may say, ‘I do it just because someone has to.’ It’s inspiring.”

Photo: Staff from Redwood Caregiver Resource Center (left to right): Nancy Powers-Stone, Connie Lorenz, Alexis Glidewell, Marsha Marin and Maisie Hak.

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