VNHCH Recognizes US National Caregivers Day
February 10, 2023
Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice of Carroll County and Western Maine (VNHCH) wants to shed light on the hard work and dedication of caregivers on February 17, 2023, US National Caregivers Day. The day honors individuals who selflessly provide personal care, and physical and emotional support to those who need it most.
Jennifer Grise, APRN, works with caregivers through her role as VNHCH’s Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner. She says caregiving is the hardest job a person can have, but can also be the most rewarding.
Grise explained, “Caregivers, whether they are family or friends providing the care, become the whole world for people with chronic disease. It couldn’t be more important.”
Despite the importance of this care, the value of the work is undervalued because caregivers are usually family or close friends. Grise continued, “Caregivers don’t always share with others what they are going through. If they did, they would feel more value in that role. That is one reason why caregiver support groups are so important.”
Caregiver support groups meet in person locally, or may also be accessed online. The Mount Washington Valley Adult Day Center (MWVADC) in Center Conway, NH offers a weekly support group on Tuesdays from 1pm-2:30 pm. They are held in person and welcome caregivers from the community and those who care for individuals who attend the Center. The support group is open to the public. They also offer Individual support by phone. Caregivers can call 603-356-4980 for more information.
Online support groups are a good option for caregivers whose loved ones have a more specialized or less common diagnosis. For example, Grise, who has a family member with frontotemporal dementia, found an online support group for caregivers of those with this condition. She explained, “I meet as part of this online support group with people from all over the US. It really helps you put things in perspective. It’s not just to get caregiver tips but also to support what important work caregivers do.”
The Alzheimer’s Association has a robust website with many resources for caregivers, including online support groups: www.alz.org Online caregiver support groups for particular kinds of dementia, such as Lewy Body Dementia (www.lbda.org) and Frontotemporal Dementia (www.theaftd.org), can be found on these association websites.
However, one of the best resources might just be a phone call away. Grise expressed the importance of reaching out to friends and family for support. “It’s always a good idea if possible to have a team of caregivers. This could be other family and friends. Or it could be a caregiver hired through an agency. There are even caregiver grants in New Hampshire. If you can’t afford to hire someone, there is a way to get financial assistance.”
Servicelink administers those caregiver grants and more information can be found on their website: www.servicelink.nh.gov. The MWVADC also has a Family Relief Fund with resources available on a limited basis for those who cannot afford to otherwise attend the day program.
Caregiver assistance is a growing field and there are several agencies in the area that can provide them. Locally, this includes Timberland Home Care, Abundant Blessings, Home Instead, and Cane & Able Health Care Services, in addition to VNHCH.
Thanks to a multi-year grant from the Administration for Community Living Alzheimer’s Disease Program, caregivers can also access support through Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health (REACH). REACH is a caregiver skill-building program that helps with the challenges of caregiving. REACH empowers caregivers through services that nourish self-esteem, increase disease knowledge and reduce stress. REACH addresses primary concerns that affect a caregiver’s well-being such as dementia-related behaviors, home safety, self-care, social support and stress. REACH is offered by VNHCH, the MWV Adult Day Center and Memorial Hospital.
VNHCH also organizes an annual “Caregiver Expo” that supports caregivers with speakers, workshops and resources. The 2022 Caregiver Expo saw over 40 attendees and plans are already underway for the 2023 event. Watch www.VNHCH.org for more information to come.
All of these resources can help caregiving be more of a team effort. Sometimes it’s too much for one person. A lot of people now are changing the nomenclature to “Care Partners,” to give the sense that the person with the illness is also participating.
Grise recommended, “For the community at large, friends and acquaintances can volunteer to assist. It’s so valuable to have those folks involved even a little bit. If you have a neighbor or friend or distant family member, just a phone call or a visit can be easy to help the caregiver and the person with the illness. Volunteer with VNHCH or the Gibson Center for Senior Services, RSVP or the MWVADC. There are so many ways for the community to be involved in caregiving. You’ll never know when you might need that same support.”
Top Tips for Caregivers:
- Don’t be in this alone! Reach out for help, whether it’s in-person help or virtual help.
- Remember how important the presence of that caregiver is to the person who is ill. If you aren’t sure what to do, know that just being there can bring a spark to the ill person’s day. For that person with chronic disease, you are that new experience that person can enjoy in their final times.
- Don’t decline help from people in your life. So many times, friends and family and acquaintances say, “let me know if I can help.” Most people will say, “I’m OK! I don’t need anything.” That’s not true. Everyone needs a break. The person you care for will enjoy a new face too. Even if it’s just buying groceries, tidying up a room or sitting with a person, it helps. Find concrete things someone can help you with.
- Reach out to VNHCH for programs like palliative care and home hospice program. This always involves caregivers. It also helps refer people to other resources. Hospice also involves volunteers to enhance the life of the client and support the caregiver and allow them respite.
- Take your time and let go of the things that don’t matter. Just your presence is sometimes enough.
Alzheimer’s Association – www.alz.org
Family Caregiver Alliance – www.caregiver.org
Visiting Nurse Homecare and Hospice – www.vnhch.org
MWV Adult Day Center – www.mwvadultdaycenter.org
Lewy Body Dementia Association – www.lbda.org
The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration – www.theaftd.org