“Family caregivers are the backbone to the American long-term care system and as such require greater assistance and support than ever before.”
During the summer of 2014, my OAGE/ODA internship was completed in conjunction with an internship with AARP Ohio. My main task was managing a new project that AARP had embarked on dealing with the important issue of family caregivers. Family caregivers are the backbone to the American long-term care system and as such require greater assistance and support than ever before. Through this project I gained a deeper understanding and respect for family caregivers and the struggles and burdens that they face.
The family caregiver project had three main goals. The first was to assemble a work group of aging and other professionals that work for an organization that provides resources to family caregivers within the state of Ohio. The second was to create a resource inventory whereby caregivers could have a single access point to a comprehensive list of informational and supportive services. The third was to develop a community checklist that local communities around the state could utilize to evaluate themselves in terms of the services and resources that are currently provided within their community to assist family caregivers. Another aspect of this project was to reach out to Ohioan family caregivers and have them share their stories and needs with AARP Ohio as a way to further identify what resources and services they require.
My role in managing this project was to first identify organizations around the state that provide resources to family caregivers. This was accomplished through internet searches, phone calls and networking with aging professionals. The second task took several weeks to complete and included reaching out to the identified organizations which was done by creating and sending an introduction letter and project outline and contacting them via phone and email. All organizations that were contacted were asked to participate in a work group on family caregiving which I was responsible for assembling for AARP Ohio. The above outlined tasks accomplished the first goal of this project.
During this period I was also responsible for writing a research report that included an in-depth and comprehensive review of the research literature. This report included information on national and Ohio statistical trends that deal with family caregivers, statues and regulations in place across the nation and in Ohio, national and Ohio programs that assist family caregivers and the benefits and challenges family caregivers face according to years of research done on this topic, just to name a few. This 30 page paper was later internally published and disseminated to the Ohio governor’s office, the national AARP office and other key stakeholders.
From this report a presentation was generated as an overview to be presented to the first meeting of the work group on family caregiving. I will be making the presentation in August of 2014. Hopefully, this report and presentation will provide a basis of information from which the work group can generate more in-depth recommendations on how to move forward in identifying state and local policies, resources and programs available to family caregivers. Other objectives for the work group include: encouraging innovative and creative means to support family caregivers, soliciting testimony on the needs of family caregivers including the designation of caregiver responsibilities, training, respite services, medical leave practices, and other related policies. The desired end result of the work group is to prepare and provide a report of its findings to the Ohio legislature by the end of this year.
Aside from these tasks I also read various caregiver stories. This allowed me to prepare a document that highlights the heartfelt and touching stories of Ohio family caregivers. This document will be published on the AARP Ohio website and bulletin in September of 2014. The purpose of collecting these stories is to solicit direct testimonials from the population we hope to assist.
The resource inventory has been started by myself and with the guidance of the work group this inventory will expand to include more in-depth local information such as grocery delivery and hygiene services available within a particular Ohio community. As a starting point for the resource inventory and checklist, I have generated a list of local services and supports that family caregivers would like to see within their respective communities. The list was based on research findings, the caregiver stories sent to AARP Ohio and by discussing survey findings collected from a colleague at Miami University that asked Ohio family caregivers what local service and resources they would find most beneficial. This list will be used in the community checklist as a way to evaluate current services being offered and to identify any gaps that may need to be addressed in the future. Once the checklist is completed it will act as a tool for community leaders to access if their community is conducive to family caregivers.
Lastly, a pilot test will be completed by myself in which I will evaluate the services and resources available in the community I live in to the list I have previously generated. Some examples of the resources I will be examining include meal delivery, companionship services, adult day and respite as well as many other diverse services.
Overall, these two internships have been an invaluable learning experience. I would like to thank the Ohio Department of Aging for their welcomed suggestions and assistance in this project as well as the opportunity to connect and work with professionals within the field of aging. I feel like I have had the fortunate opportunity to contribute to a project that will make a difference for family caregivers and their loved ones within the state of Ohio. Thank you again to the Ohio Association of Gerontology and Education and the Ohio Department of Aging. For all the future interns out there I highly recommend that you take advance of this wonderful opportunity.