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Center offers respite to caregivers

By Sara Parker

The Providence Adult Day Health Center provides an adult caregiver support group to give stress relief for caregivers.

Adult Day Care Staff
Hannaha Teachman, Oscar Haupt and Megan McCoy  Photo by Sara Parker

“A few months ago, a woman was ready to place her husband in long-term care,” said Oscar Haupt, business manager for the center and one of the facilitators of an adult caregiver support group.  “There was so much anger and resentment.  She started bringing him here three times a week, and within a few weeks, she said, ‘We’re being nice to each other again.’”

The adult caregiver support group is one of the many services provided by the Adult Day Health Center. 

Other services range from rehabilitation and high-level nursing care to daily activities that provide clients with an opportunity to socialize outside their homes and access mental stimulation.

The support group has been in existence throughout the various incarnations of the Adult Day Center since Marie Raschko started the Holy Family Adult Day Care in 1978.

The program has grown from one room in Franklin Nursing Home into a full-fledged facility with high-level nursing care and restorative therapy.

Relationships between the caregivers and their loved ones can often be fraught with tension as both struggle to deal with the new reality dealt to them by an illness or injury, he said.

“Our goal is to keep people out of long-term care and in their own homes for as long as possible,” said Megan McCoy, the clinical program manager at the Adult Day Health Center.

The group provides a forum for caregivers to support each other as they discuss issues they face and the inevitable emotional toll caretaking exacts.

“It’s like being in an airplane and having the oxygen masks deploy,” he said. “The stewards always tell you to fix your own mask before you help someone else with theirs,” Oscar said.

“Caregivers are in a position where they’re always putting another person first, and not taking care of themselves because they’re always thinking of someone else 24 hours a day.”

Caregivers deal with many of the same issues, such as grieving the way a relationship has changed because of illness or traumatic injury, and the strain of adapting to new tasks such as helping with bathing and other daily living issues.

Caregivers feel grief and anger as they witness the deterioration of their loved ones, said Hannaha Teachman, an Eastern Washington University social work intern and one of the group coordinators.

“They grieve the loss of the relationship that they had with this person who had been everything to them, and is now unable to do basic self-care or may be completely different than they once were.”

Hannaha became a nurse’s assistant at age 17, when her great-grandmother went into a nursing home.

“She remained feisty until the day she died. By the time she passed away when I was 18, she didn’t recognize me. She would think I was my mom,” she said.

Although caregivers tend to follow a pattern of grief, frustration and emotional overload, Hannaha has seen a wide spectrum of emotional responses among the clients of the Adult Day Center.

“It depends on where they are in the stages of dementia.  If they’re aware that they’re losing their memory and cognitive functioning, they might feel anger and fear. I’ve seen some people who are accepting, and others who are frustrated and upset that they can’t do all the things that they used to do.”

Because of those concerns, the Alzheimer Association partners in facilitating the support groups.

The caregiver population is diverse, comprised of people who maintain a variety of roles within a family.  They are children, spouses or long-term partners, and occasionally parents.

However, the group facilitators have noticed a marked split in how men and women caregivers deal with the emotions that arise as a result of their role.

“Many men tend to focus on the financial aspects of care giving,” Hannana said. “That’s more how they define caregiving, rather than expressing emotions.”

One of the most rewarding aspects of the group for the facilitators is seeing how relationships between the caregivers and clients improve over time.

“What I love most about being a social worker and participating in this program is seeing people change,” said Hannaha. “We provide the tools so they can do the work.”

For information, call 482-2475 or email Oscar.Haupt2@providence.org.



Copyright © June 2013 - The Fig Tree