Attention Family Caregivers, Professionals Serving Family Caregivers, and Compassionate Friends of Caregivers:

Do you feel often overwhelmed and unsure of your knowledge and skills as a family caregiver?  Do you know how to effectively navigate the Internet for high-quality health and wellness information?  If you seek new skills as a family caregiver, you are not alone in your quest for knowledge and training and need to be recognized and applauded!!

According to a June 2015 report issued by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, Caregiving in the U.S., there are over 43 million informal, unpaid family caregivers in the U.S.  Family caregivers are the backbone of the U.S. long-term system and contribute over 470 billion dollars annually to the U.S. economy as they offer care, comfort, and financial resources to a loved one with a chronic medical condition and/or disability.  In Broward County, it is estimated for 2014 that there are over 550,000 family caregivers with a significant need for both health and wellness information and caregiving management skills development.  A new opportunity for caregiver training is being offered in Broward County to assist family caregivers deliver care with dignity, compassion, and life enrichment through a partnership formed by the Disability Resource Center Broward’s Health and Wellness Promotion Program.

Education and support are provided to family caregivers receive from our local communities from many agencies and programs.  For example, medical diagnostic services, Medicare health insurance, Medicaid community care and AD services, family self-help support groups, information and referral services, discharge planning nurses and patient navigators in hospitals, geriatric care specialists, family caregiver training, mental health counseling, respite services, home health services, assisted living facilities, hospice/palliative care, and skilled nursing facilities are part of the continuum of care required to support families and their loved ones over a lifespan.  The U.S. long-term care system is complex with barriers to navigate and demands that caregivers acquire new skills, knowledge, and positivity for successful care of oneself and your loved one(s).

Below are pointers to boost your knowledge as offered in an Artis Senior Living Davie (FL) Seminar on Tuesday, July 17.  The presenter, Milena Cedeno-Oblinger, RN, SCRN, is Supervisor of the Memory Disorders Center at Broward Health North, Deerfield Beach, FL, part of the Alzheimer’s Initiative in Florida.  Ms. Cedeno-Oblinger offered many insights into “Positive Caregiving for Loved Ones with Dementia” and cited several books to consult–The 36-Hour Day, Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s, and How to Care for Your Aging Parents.

 First, Ms. Cedeno-Oblinger, RN, SCRN, explained that dementia is an umbrella term for impaired cognitive functioning that affects memory, judgement, thinking skills, reaction time, and problem-solving skills.  The Alzheimer’s Association offers their Ten Warning Signs and Symptoms on its website to assist family caregivers, professionals, and the general public with an understanding of the disease and the public health implications of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for U.S. society and our families.

In her presentation, Ms. Cedeno-Oblinger noted that the more a caregiver or family member understands the disease progression, the better one is able to help a loved one through the disease process.  It is important for caregivers to learn how to strengthen their coping skills, manage stress, and develop relaxation skills.

Habilitation is a key skill for AD caregivers and involves these five steps–

  • Make the physical environment work by adjusting for visual focus and noise reduction
  • Know that communication remains possible for the person with AD
  • Focus on your older adult’s remaining skills
  • Live in their world
  • Enrich the person’s life

The COPE acronym was introduced as a learning tool for those in attendance.

COPE means to–

COMMUNICATE with your family and healthcare team about your caregiving responsibilities, feelings, and support available.

and simplify the details of your own life and the life of your loved one.

PRIORITIZE and be PROACTIVE with your time, daily caregiving responsibilities, and know when to seek out help for long-term care planning (medical, legal, and financial aspects are key), and respite.

ENERGIZE your body and brain by filling your cup with joy, happiness, and peace.

Ms. Cedeno-Oblinger offers these top health and wellness tips for family caregivers for a positive caregiving attitude and for your family’s total well-being –exercise for your heart and to build/maintain your physical strength; eat properly (a low-fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables); practice mindfulness (living in the present moment and reserving judgement); engage in daily meditation or prayer with deep breathing for stress management; obtain 7-9 hours of sleep daily; stop smoking; limit your alcohol intake; expand your interests and activities by learning new hobbies; stay connected socially; and consult your primary care physician for your annual “wellness” visit (check on your medications and possible side-effects plus monitor your cardiovascular and brain health through baseline screenings).

Family caregivers are IMPORTANT and desire new skills and practical knowledge to ensure dignity and the quality of life for those under their care and for themselves.

To support family caregivers, the Aging and Disability Resource Center Broward’s Broward Health and Wellness Promotion Program, Broward County Library System, and Transforming Lives and More Inc. Special Library, a member library of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Southeastern Atlantic Region, have formed a partnership to offer the evidence-based class, Powerful Tools for Caregivers, on six consecutive Wednesdays in September and October 2018, beginning on September 19 and running through October 24, at Northwest Regional Library, Coral Springs, FL.  The course is offered from 10:30am to Noon in Room 223 of the Northwest Regional Library, 3151 N. University Drive, Coral Springs, FL.  There is no charge for the training program, but registration is required since the number of available training seats is limited.

Share the ADRC Broward’s “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” class information with family caregivers you know in your family, neighborhood, place of work, or church/congregation/temple. Evidence-based training with help families enrich the quality of life and dignity of their older adults diagnosed with a wide range of chronic medical conditions.

To register for the free, six-week class, please e-mail Dr. Mary Howrey, Medical Librarian, or phone the ADRC Helpline at 954-745-9779. 

For additional information about the ADRC Broward class, e-mail Vanessa Rico-Robie, Health & Wellness Coordinator/Class Instructor, or call–954-745-9567 Ext. 10249