Hands-on help for family caregivers

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com
Free monthly Lunch and Learn series provides practical knowledge to family caregivers

Sometimes, caregivers need care of their own.

In 2013, nearly one million family caregivers in Virginia helped a loved one with daily activities, according to a 2015 report by the AARP Public Policy Institute. The same report found these caregivers provided 956 million hours of care.

"It's a different ball game in home care," said Joan Bender, a local nurse. "These people are being asked to perform duties that they don't have any training or background for."

The Family Caregiver Lunch and Learn Series aims to fill in these gaps for Peninsula caregivers. The monthly series starts Feb. 11.

Where support groups might offer emotional support, the Lunch and Learn series provides a different, still essential, support. "The difference is really to give them the hands-on skills that they need for those day-to-day activities," said Diane Hartley, Director of Peninsula Agency on Aging's Williamsburg office.

Bender and Hartley are members of the planning committee for the series, which arose around three years ago as a collaboration among the Peninsula Agency on Aging, Thomas Nelson Community College, Colonial Behavioral Health and the Colonial Heritage Community Foundation.

The series links local caregivers to local experts. Experts present and answer questions on practical topics – helping somebody keep their balance, feeding someone who has difficulty swallowing, the list continues.

The 2016 series begins with "Legal Issues Facing Caregivers" on Feb. 11. Susan Jean, a partner at The Heritage Law Group in Williamsburg, specializes in elder law. She will present and answer questions about issues such as wills, powers of attorney and more.

On March 10, "Managing Difficult Behaviors" covers tips and strategies for managing behaviors caused by dementia, Alzheimer's or other health issues. Douglas Panto will speak, representing the Alzheimer's Association's Southeastern Virginia Chapter.

"Body Mechanics" on April 14 gives caretakers the chance to learn skills from two licensed physical therapists, from Riverside and Sentara, on how to properly and safely move loved ones, say, from a bed to a wheelchair. During the class, participants practice different transferring situations.

Bender explained many participating caregivers are seniors. "They're not prepared to lift someone that might be dead weight," Bender said. Then, the caregiver might hurt his or her back, affecting their ability to provide care.

"Our objective was to take these caregivers … and give them a full experience of learning something, having lunch, not having to pay," Bender said, "Just being cared for for that hour and a half."

The lunches are free of charge, lasting from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Thomas Nelson Workforce Center, 4135 Ironbound Road, on the second floor of the Berkshire Hathaway Towne Realty building.

Registration is required, as seating is limited. Contact Joyce Ugweje at ugwejej@tncc.edu or 757-345-2823.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-275-4934.

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