Chances are that you are a family caregiver: an unpaid person who cares for an older family member, friend or neighbor. As a family caregiver, you might live in the same house, the same town, or you might be a "long-distance" caregiver, for example, having a parent who lives in the lower 48. Since caring for an older person can be emotionally or physically demanding, family caregivers need support and information to stay healthy themselves and survive what could be a "long haul." Information and services for family caregivers may also protect the whole family, including its finances.
November is National Family Caregiver Month during which the needs of family caregivers and services available are highlighted. In Juneau, a Caregiver Education Series, consisting of four workshops, will be offered Mondays from noon to 1:30 at the Mountain View Apartments Common Room (895 12th St., co-located with 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.
The program on Nov. 3 will focus on "What do Caregivers Need to Know About Memory Loss and Long Term Care?" Amber Smith, education specialist with the Alzheimer's Resource Agency, will talk about dementia and especially Alzheimer's. Julie DeLong, social worker with Wildflower Court, will discuss assisted living and nursing facility options, what to ask and who to talk with.
On Nov. 10, legal issues affecting caregivers will be covered. Holly Handler, attorney with Alaska Legal Services, will discuss and answer questions about conservatorships, wills, advance directives and long term care planning. Planning ahead to have legal paperwork in order, such as a durable power of attorney to be able to assist with the elder's affairs, can prevent a lot of problems for family caregivers if the person cared for becomes unable to make decisions.
"How Can Hospice and Home Care Help Caregivers?" is the topic of the program on Nov. 17. Sandy Harris, social worker for Hospice and Home Care of Juneau, will de-mystify what is available through this organization, including home health care options. Claire Richardson, a Hospice volunteer, will share her insights during studies at a London hospital specializing in end of life care.
"Caring for the Caregivers" will take place on Nov. 24. Counselor Nils Dihle will moderate a panel of caregivers, relating their experiences dealing with the emotions, challenges and rewards of both "hands-on" and long distance caregiving. In response to participants' questions, the caregivers and Nils will offer helpful tips for managing difficult and stressful situations.
The Caregiver Education Series is sponsored by the Senior Information and Caregiver Resource Center, which serves family caregivers throughout Southeast Alaska. The SICRC 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 Jim or Mary Lou at 463-6177. For long-distance caregivers, the SICRC staff is able to research senior services available in any community in the United States.
• Marianne Mills is the Program Director of Southeast Senior Services which offers a variety of home and community based services for older Alaskans throughout Southeast Alaska. SESS is a program division of Catholic Community Service which assists all persons regardless of their faith.
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