Help caregivers remain healthy and become more confident and knowledgeable care providers.
While caregiving provides rewards, it also exacts a toll. Family caregivers are typically in poorer health than non-caregivers, twice as likely to suffer from serious stress, and well over half of them lack confidence to do all the necessary tasks of their role.
Memory Cafes and Respite Camps
At some point in our lives, all of us are caregivers – for a child, an aging parent, or perhaps a family member of friend that is recovering from a medical issue or facing a chronic health condition or developmental disability. Chances are that you, personally, may have experienced the pressures of long-term caregiving – burnout, compromised health, depression and depletion of financial resources. And maybe a wise person told you that taking care of yourself is just as important as take care of your loved one – and it can seem just as difficult to do!
Many caregivers turn to respite care for their loved ones in order to have a short-term break to relieve their stress, renew their energy and restore a sense of balance to their lives. Respite can come in many different forms.
One form of caregiver respite is Memory Cafes, which have been popping up throughout our area. It can be overwhelming and isolating to take care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. The cafes give caregivers an opportunity to learn from others and share concerns while eliminating the social isolation barrier.
“Every day has a difference challenge as the dementia progresses. It can be very difficult to find time for myself. Sometimes routine outings like grocery shopping or running errands can be tough because she (my wife) cannot be home alone for very long. I have to be my wife’s eyes and ears in addition to her memory. She depends on me for her daily routine and little things like taking medications at the right time. It is really sad to watch her memory fade because she is the same, but she is very different. I guess that’s the biggest challenge…rolling with the changes,” says caregiver Ron.
Memory Cafe meetings offer stimulating and fun activities, chosen by the participants, in a relaxed environment. In Oshkosh, monthly Memory Cafes are held at the Oshkosh Public Library and the 20th Avenue YMCA. In Berlin, a relatively new Memory Cafe has started at the Boys and Girls Club of the Tri-County Area.
“It is a safe and happy place for those with memory loss. No one cares if you forget their name or can’t finish a story. We laugh a lot! I also don’t feel alone because others are on this same path as caregivers.” – Ron, caregiver
Several Community Foundation funds including The Dementia Awareness Fund, the Ladies Benevolent Society: Advocates for Older Adults Fund, and the Green Lake County/Ripon Community Foundation Fund have supported area Memory Cafes.
For the Andersen family, respite comes in a different form – camp. Mady, a senior at Oshkosh West high school, has been attending Easter Seals Wisconsin Camp Wawbeek in Wisconsin Dells for five years. Mady has a genetic disorder that has lead to a moderate to severe intellectual disability, as well as significant speech impairment. But she doesn’t let that stop her from playing on the playground, doing crafts, participating in games and enjoying the dance party on the last night of camp.
Camp Wawbeek offers children and adults with physical or mild cognitive disabilities the opportunity to have a true camp experience including boating, fishing, hiking and flying through the air on a zip line. But most importantly, Camp Wawbeek provides a safe place that families feel comfortable leaving their loved one.
Bethany Andersen, Mady’s mom and primary caregiver, loves the wide range of activities offered and the homey feel of the living quarters.
“I love the camp staff…and the assurance that she is in good hands for the week”, says Bethany. “While Mady enjoys Camp Wawbeek, I take time to refresh my body and spirit by doing the things I enjoy! Sometimes it’s a short trip, but often it’s just reading a book, relaxing by the pool, boating, or laying on the couch watching Netflix! Every caregiver needs a break.”
The Hiwela Youth Fund has donated nearly $10,000 over 5 years to provide camperships for youth with disabilities from low income families to attend Camp Wawbeek.