Friday 5 June 2015

Six Ways Communities Can Help Caregivers

Local communities are great places to look for help and support for your caregiving family.  It's worth doing a search of your neighborhood - you're likely to find community assets that may be life savers for you and your loved one.  Start by identifying the schools, churches, community centres, shopping malls, municipal services and health care facilities around you.  Here's how to use that information:


Elementary schools may have a volunteer programme for reading to children.  This might be a valuable opportunity for your elder loved one to add meaning and purpose to their week.  Schools might have an initiative for inter-generational learning or an empathy education program.  Innovative teachers use local seniors to enhance their history lessons. It's worth calling the principal to enquire.

High schools frequently require their students to complete volunteer hours in order to graduate.  Guidance counsellors will have information on whether a student could assist with yard work, grass cutting, dog walking or snow removal on a voluntary basis.

Community Centres

Community centres are the caregiver's best friend.  At my local centre, there are programs on offer from post-stroke aqua-rehab, to zumba with inclusive child care.  There is an autism employment support and education program that trains (and pays) young adults with developmental disabilities to clean lunch tables and water plants.  For seniors, there are fitness opportunities such as 'The Silver Stars' and adult-only swimming times.  Our community centre offers to locate volunteers to swim with adults with disabilities too, during those quiet swim times.  Call your local centre to see what's on offer for you and your loved one.  If your personal financial resources are limited, ask whether they offer subsidies for membership (the YMCA offers this type of help).

Places of Worship

Your local church or synagogue could be a source of support or even daytime respite.  Churches are natural places of support and belonging.  Ask your priest or rabbi whether there's an opportunity for you to worship while a volunteer cares for your loved one.  Ask if there are home visits available, if that is what you need.  Many places of worship have committees devoted to the needs of caregivers and elderly or disabled community members.  Call and ask how the worship community might help your family.

Shopping Malls

Shopping malls might not seem like the most likely place to look for support, but I've noticed that those around my neighbourhood offer many programmes for seniors.  There are mall walking clubs, there's a seniors' centre at my local mall and a store-front seniors' chair yoga centre in another mall near me.  It's worth speaking with someone at the mall executive office too, about special events for seniors or for people with disabilities.  There may be volunteer or employment opportunities at the mall for adults with disabilities as well.  For example, if your loved one with a disability adores animals and often visits the mall pet store, ask whether there is a job available working with the pets or stocking shelves.

Municipal Services

People working in your local municipal services have a responsibility to know and support their most vulnerable constituents.  Make an appointment to phone or visit your local fire station.  If you support someone with mobility challenges, they will put you on an alert registry so that in case of fire, they will be prepared.  Google your city government to see what public services are operated in your area - these could include local art galleries (often with specialized learning programmes), outdoor swimming pools, parks and even population-specific programmes such as day respite for people with disabilities or dementia.  One local community centre near my home offers a monthly recreation party night for adults with disabilities - it's hugely popular.

Health Care Facilities

Hospital and out-patient services might offer workshops or other support programmes that might be interesting and helpful for your family.  Call the social work office and ask to be put on a mailing list for all their programmes.  A google search of 'respite disability' or 'respite eldercare' in your city might turn up opportunities that are new to you.  If you have specialized healthcare needs for your loved one (such as foot care, for example), enquire whether your local health authority offers home visits. Even pharmacies, especially those that include a division for rehab medical needs offer information and support as well.

Your community has assets that can help ease your caregiving path.  Research, investigate and never be afraid to ask what's available in your neighbourhood - you'll be glad you did!

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