With 1.4 million Americans in nursing homes, nearly six million receiving care at home, and a groundswell of aging baby boomers, the need for in-home care workers continues to grow while the supply of caregivers continues to shrink.
One effort to address this problem is the creation of caregiver training programs to upgrade the skills of those currently employed as home care aides and also encourage others to enter the field. It’s not just paid professionals who benefit from taking these programs though. They’re a tremendous resource for family caregivers, a place to learn the skills and information they’ll need to keep their loved ones safe and healthy. Recently, 12 community colleges around the country were awarded grants of up to $25,000 each to develop home-based caregiver training programs or enhance programs that already exist for family-member caregivers and in-home care workers. The initiative was funded by MetLife Foundation and is based within The Caregiving Project for Older Americans (a joint venture of the International Longevity Center-USA and the Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education).
One goal of the in-home caregiver training programs and classes is to address the overwhelming desire of those needing care to remain at home as long as possible, as opposed to going to a nursing home or other type of institutional care setting, I was told by Kenneth Knapp, PhD, of the International Longevity Center. I asked Karla Jamison, RN, BSN, who developed the caregiving course at one grant-awarded college, Neosho County Community College, in rural Chanute, Kansas, for details on NCCC’s course content. The class she teaches covers a wide variety of caregiving issues, including hands-on instruction in how to move patients around in bed and also in the bath…how to recognize signs and symptoms that require medical intervention…and how to find out about community resources and health care services and act as an advocate for a person who would benefit.
This last aspect is particularly important for family caregivers who are unlikely to know much about what’s available in the community. Jamison said people also need guidance in organizing their time and life around new caregiving duties, since often these compete with existing jobs and responsibilities to other family members. She notes that an important topic is the need for self-care for the caregiver, along with advice on how to find time for respite and renewal.
Jamison is not just an instructor and a nurse—she was also a caregiver to her grandmother, so she knows firsthand the tremendous stress, anxiety and exhaustion that caregivers routinely experience. Though acknowledging how demanding it was, she also told me about the great personal returns she experienced in caring for her grandmother and about the surprising moments of joy that arose during the darkest of days. Jamison said she plans to share this part of caregiving in her classes as well.
For more information on caregiving training programs, go to the Web site of the International Longevity Center at www.ilcusa.org/prj/caregiving.htm.