There are many family caregivers in the Thompson Okanagan region.
In fact, there are so many family caregivers in the Thompson Okanagan region that not all of them know they are family caregivers.
Central Okanagan Hospice Association, in co-operation with Vantage Living Inc. and Jump Start Communications, is getting ready to conduct an intensive, two-month education program for family caregivers who are helping those in the palliative care journey of serious illness or aging.
The first thing they need to do, however, is to ensure that those who are caring for someone—whether it’s a loved one, a friend or a neighbour—know that they have access to COHA’s vast resources.
And there are even more family caregivers thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, because seniors are spending more time at home than ever before.
“It’s important that we recognize all the different levels for a caregiver and that they’re not alone,” Vantage Living chief nursing officer Tara-Lee Calhoun says. “We want to give them tools that they can use to cope and physically be able to do the care that they have to do. But also we want to give them all the resources that are available. It is a community, and the community is here.
“Too many people at home think: I’m going through this all by myself, and I have to figure this out all by myself.”
The eight sessions will be held virtually every Saturday, and COHA will ensure that everyone who wants to participate is able to do just that. COHA will distribute data-enabled tablets and even offer instructions to those who have never used Zoom before.
The eight education sessions are:
• Providing Personal Care At Home, Oct. 17
• Nutrition & Hydration, Oct. 24
• Understanding Pain, Oct. 31
• Understanding A Palliative Approach to Care, Nov. 7
• Self-Care & Self Compassion, Nov. 14
• Managing Pain & Symptoms, Nov. 21
• Homecare vs LTC, Nov. 28
• Advance Care Planning, Dec. 5
“The aim is to make the program as accessible to everyone and to really start a dialogue in the community around awareness of aging and serious illness, palliative care and advanced care planning,” COHA community services director Bonnie Pontalti says.
The first session, about care at home, will teach caregivers about bathing their loved one and helping them in and out of vehicles. The second, about nutrition and hydration, will set the record straight about what loved ones should be drinking and eating, and it’s not as simple as you might think.
Pontalti says there will be a lot of “myth busting” about palliative care, which does not mean impending death like most believe.
“We have two separate sessions that are all around pain management and all the other types of treatments that are not a pill form that absolutely can help,” Calhoun says. “Because 50 per cent of the people are dealing with some kind of pain. The good news is that it’s only 50 per cent. Many people think you get that diagnosis and they’re going to have a horrible, painful death. The good news is only 50 per cent actually experience pain.”
Those are just a handful of the many things that will be learned during the two months of educations sessions. If they can help one person make a tough situation easier, it will be mission accomplished for COHA.
“It’s so caregivers don’t feel they’re alone,” Pontalti says. “The mission of COHA is so that no one dies or grieves alone. Caregivers are grieving.
“Grieving doesn’t happen at the moment of death. It happens throughout the journey as we experience a multitude of little losses.”
This article is written by or on behalf of the sponsoring client and does not necessarily reflect the views of Okanagan Edge.
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