Caregiving plays a unique and valuable role in our society. More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. Currently, the majority of individuals with Alzheimer's are cared for at home by family members.
Caregiving can bring a sense of personal fulfillment for family caregivers. At the same time, the complexity of the issues caregivers face is increasing, and the toll caregiving has on health and well-being is undeniable.
The chronic nature of caregiving threatens both physical and emotional health and depression is common. Dementia caregivers experience more-severe negative health effects than other types of caregiving and have higher medical costs than noncaregivers do. Most caregivers indicate that their decline in health compromises their ability to provide care.
Caregiving is both a role and a relationship. And while it can be satisfying, caregiving is often the hardest task a family member ever faces.
CaringSource is the Center for Innovation's commitment to caregivers — an individualized service inspired by the Mayo Clinic Wellness Coaching Model developed in collaboration with national experts, including Mayo Clinic clinicians, therapists, educators and design innovators. CaringSource is about positively influencing the health, well-being and quality of life for those in a caregiving role.
At the cornerstone of CaringSource are CaringCoaches. Dedicated to the art of creating meaningful relationships with caregivers, they are experts in dementia, communication and caregiving approaches. The coaches recognize the obstacles caregivers face, including limited time for themselves, lack of preparedness and often a flurry of negative emotions.
CaringCoaches help caregivers build on strengths, respect their own limits and accept that they don't have to shoulder the burdens of caregiving alone.
CaringSource is about:
CaringCoaches develop quality relationships with caregivers. They listen to understand a caregiver's values, preferences, dementia knowledge and self-care practices. CaringCoaches communicate openly, with empathy and respect, while acknowledging the caregiver's relationship to the person for whom they give care. CaringCoaches are dedicated to offering a healing and nurturing relationship that caregivers need and deserve.
The caregiver as a person
Caregiving can have its rewards — for some, a deepening relationship with the person living with dementia emerges. And similar to the person living with dementia, those in a caregiving role must be acknowledged, supported and have their needs met. When caregivers learn to employ specific skills and focus on their own health and well-being, the person they care for benefits considerably.
Well-being and health
Well-being can be described in many ways. For caregivers, it includes individual vitality, meaningful engagement, capacity for self-compassion, and resilience to cope with changes and circumstances beyond their control. Caregiver health includes a balanced life of nutrition, exercise, and regular breaks and relaxation, along with routine preventive health care.
Family and friends
Relationships change. For the caregiver, some relationships support and replenish, while others can be draining and emotionally damaging. In either case, offering information and guidance to family and friends often improves caregiver well-being.
Well-matched services and resources
CaringCoaches help caregivers recognize and identify necessary support, including home care, respite and memory care. They can then recommend only those services and resources that are trusted and well-suited to each caregiver and his or her unique circumstance.
Education has the immense power to transform caregivers. CaringCoaches are teachers and mentors, sharing relevant and timely information and helping caregivers develop and refine caregiver skills. They can play a role in mitigating crises and helping caregivers move through difficult transitions.
The CaringSource Assessment is a tool that provides the caregiver insight into his or her current picture of health and well-being. It then offers both the caregiver and the coach a compass for recognizing strengths and identifying areas for reflection focus, growth and change.
CaringSource enrolls caregivers in a 10-week experience. Enrolled caregivers meet weekly with a personal CaringCoach. With this guidance, caregivers engage in the practice of self-care, acceptance and health-enhancing activities.
In addition, sessions may address present-day challenges, increase knowledge and refine skills, clarify the role of family and friends, and create a portfolio for future resources and overall preparedness. Benefits to each caregiver vary depending on individual needs and focus.
The goal of CaringSource includes an assessment of individual needs. Additional goals include:
- Identify solutions to current challenges
- Increase caregiver skills in dementia communication
- Mutually create a plan for daily self-care practices
- Increase confidence in the caregiving role
- Explore caregiver health goals and achieve progress toward identified goals
- Assess family support and strengthen collaboration
- Mutually develop a plan that decreases stress and caregiver burden
- Positively impact caring for the person living with dementia
- Create a customized portfolio of resources and services for current and future support