Laura Andrews-Francis

Laura Andrews-Francis

Laura Andrews-Francis

Miami University
Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio

Summer 2014

“Having the opportunity to learn more about our state’s Department of Aging through the Ohio Internships in Aging Program has been invaluable.”

This semester I interned at The Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio in Cincinnati. When the council became involved with the Ohio Home Care Waiver they needed to update their resource directory to provide a better service to all consumers. One of the ways they did this was by adding new categories and resources to include people of all ages who have disabilities. The council acquired packets of resources from The Department of Jobs and Family Services for seven counties: Butler, Hamilton, Clinton, Greene, Clermont, Warren and Montgomery. My project was to check these resources and see if they were currently in the directory, if not I researched the resource and added it to the directory. The information I compiled during my research included the contact information, a description of the resource and links to their programs. Another step was adding keywords that the consumer may use to search for the resource. For example if the resource was Hospice of Dayton, keywords would include: hospice, end of life, emotional support, symptom management, palliative care, hospice providers, hospice services and terminally ill. The goal was to add as many keywords that the consumer may use in a search engine to find a particular resource. Adding as many categories to the resource to be listed under was another step. There is a list of categories to choose from, the categories used for Hospice of Dayton were: care options, grief and loss support groups and hospice. After I completed adding ninety-four new resources I went back to the list of the approximately 2,000 already existing resources and began editing them to make sure they were inclusive to the population as a whole and listed under all applicable categories.

I had heard of many of the resources in the directory but there were more that I had not heard of. Learning about these resources gives me the opportunity to help others by sharing my knowledge of the resources with them or simply referring them to the directory. The resource directory is a valuable tool for consumers, care managers, case workers or anyone working with older adults or people with disabilities.

Having the opportunity to learn more about our state’s Department of Aging through the Ohio Internships in Aging Program has been invaluable. Ohioans are fortunate to have a Department of Aging that is so committed to the needs of our state’s older adults. It shows through the multiple programs and projects they are involved in. Since I have a special interest in intergenerational relationships I really enjoyed learning about the departments intergenerational programs Start Talking and Project More. Everyone I met through my internship experience showed enthusiasm and commitment to the projects and programs they were involved with. It has been a privilege to have firsthand exposure to the agency, their projects and the people dedicated to them.

Natalie Pitheckoff

Natalie Pitheckoff

Natalie Pitheckoff

Miami University
AARP Ohio

Summer 2014

“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.

Laura Hahn

Laura Hahn

Laura Hahn

Miami University
Butler County Probate County

Summer 2014

“It was an honor being a part of the Ohio Internships in Aging program, meeting thought leaders and connecting with other interns embarking on careers in aging.”

I interned for the Butler County Probate Court, where I completed a process evaluation of their volunteer guardianship program. Courts establish guardianships to assist individuals who need help making decisions. These individuals may include people living with disabilities, mental illness, or dementia. Volunteer guardians are, first and foremost, companions. (They have what’s called guardianship over person, not guardianship over estate.) In 1996, Judge Randy Rogers started the Butler County Volunteer Guardianship program, one of the few of its kind in the state. This summer, through the process evaluation, Judge Rogers aimed to better understand the experiences of volunteer guardians, and the best ways to strengthen the program moving forward.

This was my first-ever research project, so that alone was a bit daunting at the outset. I was thankful to have the support and guidance of Miami University’s Kate de Medeiros, Ph.D., and Suzanne Kunkel, Ph.D., director of Scripps Gerontology Center. It also was a challenge to arrange and complete 37 interviews within the span of a few weeks, but thanks to a corps of dedicated volunteers and community members, it all came together. I was thrilled to receive a 93 percent response rate among the current volunteers.

In addition to the chance to complete my own research, this internship gave me the opportunity to meet leaders working in the field at the World Congress on Adult Guardianship in Washington, D.C. Closer to home, the experience opened my eyes to an underserved, often-hidden population of caregivers and loved ones and friends. It was an honor being a part of the Ohio Internships in Aging program, meeting thought leaders and connecting with other interns embarking on careers in aging. The idea of guardianship — of advocating for an individual based on his or her will and preference — aligns with the idea of person-centered care, a priority in Ohio and across the country. My internship helped me recognize this, and understand the need for more research in the area. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, perhaps I will be that researcher one day.

Sarah Flowers

Sarah Flowers

Sarah Flowers

Miami University
The 741 Center

Summer 2014

“This experience has given me a stronger voice in order to speak out for older adults, as many of the older adults I met felt as if they had no voice.”

There are 11,400 senior centers helping 1 million seniors a day (National Council on Aging, 2013), many of which with a primary goal to help elders age successfully. The Ohio Department on Aging Internship has given me the opportunity to understand the importance and the impact that senior centers can have on the elderly population. Warren County Community Services has many programs and services for the elderly population, one of which is the 741 Senior Center that has different programs and services to promote cognitive, physical and mental health. Through interning at The 741 Senior Center I was able to be a part of many activities and events, and this experience not only allowed me to be aware of the activities seniors are involved in but enabled me to connect and reach out to the older population.

Some of the activities at the 741 Senior Center include Zumba, computer classes, bingo, Silver Sneakers and more. My internship enabled me to be involved in and help with many of these activities, as I was given many projects that reached out to the older population. My supervisors at the senior center believed that my involvement in these activities promoted the importance of intergenerational relationships and identifying some of the challenges seniors face. My first project consisted of asking the older adults at the senior center to finish a sentence: “I believe older adults”. All the elders enjoyed this project because it gave them an opportunity to speak their mind in regard to the challenges and triumphs they face. My second project consisted of interviewing an elder about their life. This interview gave me the opportunity to hear an elderly women’s story about different adventures and challenges she faced. The interviewee gave me the opportunity to interview her at Otterbein Senior Lifestyles, and in class I learned about different senior communities but never had the opportunity to visit one. This internship gave me the opportunity to be connected to a senior who allowed me to see a senior center for the first time. I worked on other projects that consisted of decorating and setting up collages around the senior center, and the seniors loved seeing their faces on the walls reminding them of different activities that had passed.

Interning at The 741 Senior Center gave me experience working with the elderly population. Many of the elders enjoyed talking with me to the point where my supervisor had to explain to the seniors that I had to have my own space to finish my projects. The Ohio Department of Aging Internship has given me the tools and skills to succeed in my future career in gerontology. I feel I have grown professionally and can achieve any task at hand. This experience has given me a stronger voice in order to speak out for older adults, as many of the older adults I met felt as if they had no voice. The older adults want me to speak out and help them find ways to overcome daily challenges related to aging. I will never forget this experience and all of the new knowledge that I have gained. Being an intern at The 741 Senior Center has revealed the importance of intergenerational relationships, opened my eyes to the struggles seniors face and I hope in my career I can make a change.