November is a month for caregivers

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Senior News By Marianne Mills

Do you feel responsibility for an older relative or friend who might need some assistance? Are you providing regular assistance to someone you care about who is unable to care for him/herself? Are you stressed about an older family member, perhaps your mother, uncle or grandmother who lives far away? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you are considered a "family caregiver" and there are resources and support available to assist you and your loved one.

November is National Family Caregiver Month during which the needs of family caregivers and services available will be highlighted. In Juneau, a Caregiver Education Series, consisting of four workshops, will be offered Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Juneau Senior Center. The workshops are specifically designed to provide valuable information and practical tips to ease the work and worries of family (unpaid) caregivers. The workshops are free and everyone is welcome to attend.

The program on Nov. 1 will focus on the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, senior care, and the Social Security Extra Help programs. After an introduction by Rep. Beth Kerttula, Julie DeLong of Southeast Senior Services and Susan Suzuki, district manager from the Social Security Administration, will present the basics in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. Julie has recently returned from training in Anchorage about these important benefits for older Alaskans.

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, a panel of long- distance caregivers will share their challenges as well as helpful tips. Nils Dihle of Southeast Senior Services and Bev Mueller of the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence are called "long-distance caregivers," as they have both been assisting aging parents who live in the lower 48. They have been monitoring their parents' care from afar and have had to make regular trips down South as part of their care. The number of persons in Alaska who are being faced with the challenges of long-distance caregiving is growing fast.

"Managing Medication / Managing Challenging Behaviors" is the third workshop in the series. On Tuesday, Nov. 15, Merritt Hogan, geriatric nurse practitioner from the Juneau Pioneers' Home, will teach practical ways to make sure that loved ones are taking their medications properly. For caregivers assisting family members who have dementia/cognitive impairment, Merritt's guidance on dealing with challenging behaviors will prove invaluable.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, family caregivers will learn "How to Lift, Transfer and Physically Assist your Family Member Safely." Jo Boehme, occupational therapist from Hospice and Home Care of Juneau, and Doug Bridges, certified passenger-assistance trainer, will demonstrate the proper body mechanics to prevent back and other injuries. Assisting someone with a disability in a safe and respectful manner is an important part of caregiving, which deserves this special training.

The Caregiver Education Series is sponsored by the Senior and Caregiver Resource Center, which serves family caregivers throughout Southeast Alaska. The SCRC is made possible by grants from the Alaska Division of Senior and Disabilities Services and the City and Borough of Juneau.

For information and personalized assistance, support groups, and access to the resource library, call Julie at 463-6177.

• Marianne Mills is the Program Director for Southeast Senior Services, a program of Catholic Community Service. CCS assists all persons, regardless of their faith.

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