Is your town friendly to family caregivers? A new survey will help | Vitality: Active Seniors | #healthcare | #elderly | #seniors
Marsha Koet was among the first senior services professionals to take a survey that aims to help senior-focused organizations and local governments up their game when it comes to supporting family caregivers.
Koet supervises the senior division for Farmington and Farmington Hills. She took the Caregiver Friendly Communities Assessment, developed by the Area Agency on Aging 1-B (AAA 1-B) with a grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, to see just how well her department is doing when it comes to helping caregivers.
It turns out, pretty well.
“I felt proud when I did this, proud of the people we work with and how many services we offer,” Koet says. “It’s good to review what you’re doing. There are times I thought, ‘Could we do that?’ We get so busy thinking about the seniors we forget to do programming for the caregivers.”
The assessment – the first of its kind in the nation — asks participants to rank themselves in eight different categories that are considered critical to meeting the needs of a growing senior population. The Caregiver Friendly Communities Assessment provides real-world evidence of the strengths and weaknesses in the caregiving chain – and offers best practices for becoming more caregiver friendly.
After taking the online survey, participants will immediately get a snapshot report of how they scored in these areas:
• In-home care and respite services availability
• Care management services (support navigating resources; care transition programs to reduce hospital readmissions; availability of trained advocates to help caregivers)
• Caregiver training and education (workshops and other reduced-cost learning opportunities)
• Caregiver social and emotional support
• Financial and legal support
• Healthcare services
Along with a one-page summary that can be downloaded, participants will get suggestions for improvements. They can also check out a best practices section to help guide them in beefing up services, and link to a website that offers evidence-based training and programs for caregivers.
“This is objective and simple and they get immediate results,” says Amanda Sears, AAA 1-B’s grant manager.
The 60-question survey requires a bit of preparation – participants need information about available services – and about 30 minutes to plug in answers.
“Depending on who you have in the room, you can get it all in one day to find out where to invest energy to better support caregivers,” says Sears.
The Caregiver Friendly Communities Assessment is based on the walkability assessment Realtors use to “sell” a neighborhood. Communities that take the survey – and take action, if necessary – will be able to promote themselves as attractive for seniors and the family members who care for them. They may use the results to request more funding or advocate for more services for caregivers.
Representatives from 21 communities throughout Michigan, including Shannon Etcheverry, MSW, of Silver Club Memory Programs in Washtenaw County, road tested the assessment before its launch in the spring.
Adding weekend hours to the adult day program she runs is one of the recommendations of the assessment. And while the idea isn’t new, Etcheverry isn’t yet sure there is consumer demand or how to reconfigure staff to make it happen.
“Like any organization, we have areas we could do better. One of our barriers is that our hours have always been 10 to 3, so it makes it difficult for caregivers who are working. There are things like that where we could do better,” she says. “Doing an assessment made me think about it differently: How does my organization fit into the puzzle of caregiver services in the county?”
Julie Shaw, associate director of SAIL, Disability Network of the U.P. in Marquette, says the assessment pointed out gaps in services, some of them chronic such as transportation and the availability of direct care workers.
Still, “The information we received back from the survey was wonderful. For the last 25 years of my career, I’ve tried to work on the gaps identified and verified for me, which made me happy to hear I’m on the right path,” Shaw says.
Content courtesy of the Area Agency on Aging 1-B.
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Caregiver-friendly communities make sure residents have access to services they need to confidently care for their loved ones and themselves. They might:
• Offer an array of affordable in-home and out-of-home respite options. Respite care is primarily for caregivers, providing temporary care of the loved one. The care can be at home, in an adult day center or in a health care facility.
• Offer free and low-cost transportation for older and disabled adults and their family caregivers to medical and non-medical appointments.
• Ensure that free and low-cost caregiver training and legal services exist in the community. Legal support should include expertise in care recipient rights, competency determinations, Medicaid divestment rules, caregiver contracts/personal care agreements, immigration issues, LGBT legal concerns, and alternative dispute resolution.
• Advocate for local hospitals to adopt the Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) model.