SENIOR MOMENT: Caring for the Caregivers
By Meg Gilbert and Jennifer Smith
When Chelsea Senior Center (CSC) was awarded a 3-year grant to coordinate a caregiver respite support program, they needed experienced, enthusiastic and innovative leaders to implement the idea. They found them.
Lisa Klinkman (MSN,RN), Senior Wellness Coordinator, and Katie Garvey, (OTRL,CAPS) Respite Care Coordinator, each brings diverse skills, expertise, enthusiasm, empathy, and energy to the “Ease the Day” Caregiver Respite Support Program.
According to a Sun Times News article (July 25, 2023), people over 60 are 20 percent of the population of Washtenaw County (the fastest-growing segment of the population), and 32 percent of households in Washtenaw County include a senior. Information from CSC indicates that over 30 percent of Chelsea residents are older than 65.
With that reality comes increased responsibility on the part of families and partners for seniors with chronic challenges. The heightened stress may lead to burnout for caregivers. Garvey notes that a primary goal of Ease the Day is to reduce caregiver stress. Self-identifying as a caregiver isn’t easy. Guilt, anxiety, and fear are barriers caregivers use to build walls. Walls lead to isolation, depression, and other health struggles. Understanding that help is available is key, and choosing to take the first step is paramount. Chelsea Senior Center recommends a survey called the ArchAngels Caregiver Intensity Index. This helps caregivers measure their level of stress. Caregivers can access the survey on the home page of the CSC website (chelseaseniors.org).
“Ease the Day” serves adults 60 and older in western Washtenaw County. An important component of the program is daycare for seniors at the CSC, giving caregivers a break from their responsibilities. Klinkman says the attendees, known as Friends, take part in activities that engage multiple senses, physical and cognitive skills, and encourage socialization – and are fun. The program currently has room for 12 Friends. Volunteers are vital to its continued success.
Other components include in-home companion respite care, in-home skilled care, and referral services for complex care and those living outside of the service area.
In-home care and referrals are coordinated through CSC, with referrals to partner agencies such as Catholic Social Services, Jewish Family Services, Comfort Keepers, and others. CSC encourages anyone interested in becoming a volunteer for the onsite day or in-home companion care program to contact Klinkman at (734) 475-9242 or email@example.com.
Klinkman and Garvey encourage caregivers to call them to find out how “Ease the Day” can help in their caregiving journey, and enrich the days for their loved one.
Klinkman shared a remark overheard in the hallway as a caregiver watched their loved one in the onsite daycare, “I did this to get a break, but I didn’t know they were going to have so much fun.”
“Ease the Day” is an Exhale Family Caregiver Initiative, led by CSC, “dedicated to funding innovative solutions that give caregivers an opportunity to breathe a little easier.”
The Senior Moment feature highlights opportunities for older adults through the Chelsea Senior Center and related organizations.