Creating a Community that Cares for Caregivers
Northern Nevada is coming of age. Our state, county, and city governments, companies, and philanthropic foundations are identifying and developing services and solutions to meet the tremendous needs that our elders have. The Community Foundation of Northern Nevada has dedicated a major imitative to serve our elders and their families – The Caregiver Support Initiative.
The Community Foundation in collaboration with many organizations throughout Washoe County have conducted community focus groups and many discussion groups around elder caregiving. They found that one of the major issues with caregivers serving their elders is lack of information and knowledge of resources within the community. So the Community Foundation is producing a guidebook for the basics of beginning care for seniors and a website that will enable caregivers to access information about services throughout the community. This is a great beginning step and will provide tremendous help to those caregivers. What we need next is to create a community that cares for caregivers.
In general family caregivers view their work as a small thing within the larger world. But the reality is that roughly 80 percent of all caregiving to elders is done by families and friends. So without family caregivers we would have no real longterm care system in the United States. Family caregivers play perhaps the most critical role in the well-being of elders with care needs. Literally - just as, or even more, important than doctors and nurses.
An impactful family caregiver support system offers a “no wrong door” approach to assisting caregivers. Such an approach seeks out existing community assets and knits them together to develop a comprehensive system of care. We can think of the approaches in buckets: community partnerships, supportive services, and education.
Community Partnerships: No one organization can provide all the services necessary to support caregivers. Recent studies have found that there are at least 12 services that form the key to a successful caregiver network. These include:
- Caregiver assessments to determine care needs
- Case management ensuring comprehensive and coordinated services
- Homecare by volunteers and paid home care aides
- Respite care
- Home modification
- Meal preparation
- Care consultation (including on-thespot expert advice to address specific issues such a behavioral problems)
- Support groups led by professionals and experienced caregivers
- Face-to-face as well as telephone evidence- based caregiver training sessions
- Legal and financial planning
The essence of an effective caregiver support system is a partnership with organizations already providing valuable services to caregivers and their loved ones. Providers can be divided into eight different provider categories:
- Caregiver Education and Training
- Counseling and Support Groups
- Food and Nutrition
- Home Modification and Housing
- Legal Services
- Long-term and Respite Care Services
- Organizations such as communities of faith which have frequent contact with caregivers and older adults