Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cindy's Caregiver Story: Creating University Linkages

Here is a caregiver story from a reader in Canada:

Hi there Moms,

Ahhh, the eternal search for caregivers. Drives me bananas, and I've been at it for 15 years. However, I am a believer in possibilities and not one to make an ado about the effort needed to drive forth change. I can fling paint when my job is done.

I used to have a 'roster' of seven women, most of whom were students at varying stages of their post secondary education. Now I am down to two gals. I, too, have experienced the chicken and egg scenario...too burned out to train new ones. Advertising in the paper was a dead end as it brought in ALL kinds of unique people, none with the qualifications which were advertised. Other parents have been finding it increasingly hard to find caregivers too. So, at a community all-supports meeting the issue was addressed. Even the services and associations which were mandated to 'find' care workers, have not been successful. (Four-month waits just don't cut it for most families.)

We decided that finding a 'home' for a Community Caregiver Service (screening, training and matching) would support families who were looking after children, youth or their adult parents with caregiving. A one-stop shop idea formed. We envisioned something which would serve multiple caregiver needs, provide volunteer and employment opportunities for students, part-time workers and professionally trained carers, increase quality of care with standard training for all, provide for multiple financial situations (free, funded contracts, parent contribution)all centralized through a Service Coordinator. Community support organizations would pay to use the service for their client families, training programs could offer their services for a fee, community businesses could offer 'perks' for parents and care givers alike. A One-Stop Shop.

I took our brainstorming results, pulled together a proposal and budget...(in my 'spare' time) and phoned the executive director of the most logical existing choice for a 'home' for this service. I wanted a meeting, but there were changes happening in the service and timing was off. I was sent away to get numbers of people in the community and a budget. That was a year ago. Along with the numbers of families whose child requires one-on-one care I ALSO followed up on a hunch that and placed an announcement on several websites of our local university (I call it, CommUniversity Connections - connecting student volunteers with families who need support for their child.)

I now have a list of 35 names of university students who are desperate to obtain a required 70 hours of volunteer work in their area in order to apply for the Masters programs in physio, speech, and occupational therapies. (Was it the Dalai lama that said we need to realize that we are interdependent?) This list will offer a 'jump-start' to the 'home' of a Community Caregiver Service. While using university students has its down side as they inevitably move on, it is one RENEWABLE SOURCE of caregivers.(You want to make sure they send their resume, three letters of recommendation, current First Aid and CPR, and a current Criminal Records Check.)

The last piece would be the funding of a Coordinator and administrative support person to screen, interview and do the matching of students to families - a two-year grant may just fit the bill to get a service like this on its legs and off to a good start.I am facing the rest of my life with the prospect of having to find, train and employ caregivers. My motivation is definitely personal in seeking a source of caregivers through the establishment of a new community service. But when I think of the enormous relief something like this will afford all families, the responsibility can shift to a place where interdependence is recognized and modeled. And, everyone can live happily ever after. Well, that may be a bit of a stretch. But I DO plan on carrying on with my personal dreams – become a professional development presenter on ionclusive education and the best …fling paint!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a positive story. I hope your efforts can be replicated in other communities.