CAC Corner: Who is a caregiver?

September 6, 2012 by cpehrson

This CAC Corner blog post was written by Gordon Richins, CPD Consumer Liaison and the CPD’s Consumer Advisory Council’s advisor.

Gordon Richins in a baseball cap sitting in his wheelchair

Who is a caregiver?
“There are four kinds of people in this world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” 
(Former first lady – Rosalynn Carter)

As an individual who uses a caregiver every day, I thought I would share some personal experiences and information, as well as gather some general information that individuals could use and share with others.

Here are some of my personal experiences with caregivers over the last 26 years from my perspective. For starters, I would like to begin with when I was released from the hospital after my accident that paralyzed me from the neck down.  The only caregivers I used were family members. It took me quite a while to start accepting assistance from others, especially individuals I did not know. After I got over this hurdle, my quality of life has greatly increased and my opportunities in everyday life has expanded. The use of outside help also provides my wife time to herself. Serving as a caretaker can be very stressful and demanding and in some cases require a great deal of time. I would encourage individuals and family to seek out the use of outside help from the beginning.

I would like to share with readers some of the things I value most in a caregiver. Reliability is the most important factor for me, as well as being on time. I also value their willingness to learn how I like to do things. I want things done my way. I have had caregivers that thought they were the boss, but it didn’t take long to change that. So I guess I should add listening and respecting the individual they are caring for. Honesty, integrity, and a good sense humor are very important, also. Gender doesn’t matter to me. I just prefer someone who knows what they are doing. In a rural community my selection of caretakers is very limited, so I appreciate the help I can hire. I have friends who will only use one gender or the other, which is fine because I believe in personal choice and preference. I have found that with the lack of qualified Personal Care Assistance available, a person is not always able to be real choosy.

Some of the challenges I have had to overcome when using a caregiver are their availability and also the turnover of caretakers primarily due to the low wages or salaries. And then there is the process of training a new caretaker all over again. Also, living in a rural community on a dirt road out of town, I have the added expense of mileage for the caregivers travel. For individuals and families who may qualify for state and government assistance there may be more choice of caregivers due to the availability of competing agencies within communities. In my rural community, there is only Franklin County Medical Center home health division and a limited number of private Personal Care Attendants who work for themselves. Most communities also have some form of training opportunities for Personal Care Attendants so they can be certified or accredited and be able to be paid through an agency. This may really improve the number of caretakers available, if friends and family go through the training and become certified or accredited.

I’d like to share some advise for individuals and family who may be looking for a caregiver that could be very helpful for individuals or family members who may be looking for the first time. The most important thing you can do is to research your area for the availability of caretakers, and the organizations they may work for. It is  helpful to know the organization’s hiring process and how they do background checks. In the event that they do not work for an agency and work for themselves,  then you become the employer and this has IRS requirements, Workmen’s Compensation requirements, payroll requirements and in some area, certified training requirements.

There is also a great deal of information on the World Wide Web for the individual who uses caregivers and for those who are caregivers. This information is also useful for family members as they research the topic of caregiving for the elderly or individuals with disabilities.

A great place to start is a website developed by Purdue University’s Breaking New Ground Resource Center and the Indiana State Office of Rural Health.  On this website there is an advertisement for To Everything There is a Season, a very beneficial and informative set of training materials.

You can also find a list of various caregiving services, organizations and resources on the Utah Resources website.

Another great resource was developed by the Utah Assistive Technology Program here at USU.  It is titled the Personal Assistance Services Guide and is available to download online through the UATP, or by calling 435-797-3811. This resource guides those looking for personal assistant caregivers through the process of locating caregivers, interviewing them, learning the employer’s responsibilities, training and supervising new PA’s.

This is just a snapshot of a wealth of information on caregiving, hopefully you will find it useful and helpful.

As the CPD Consumer Liaison, I am also available as a contact person for general questions regarding caregiving and care receiving.

Gordon Richins


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Strengthening family caregivers

November 28, 2011 by cpehrson

Adult woman, blonde hair, kneeling beside a young boy in a wheelchair

This month, National Family Caregivers Month, we have been talking about family caregivers and the kinds of support that they need in order to continue to provide this valuable service for a loved one.

Many caregivers go without supportive services that could help reduce the challenges of providing care.  Our last family caregiver blog outlined some of the resources and supports that are available to caregivers.

Another source of support for family caregivers comes in the form of assistive technology and home modifications.

Assistive technology includes mobility devices like canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, to help someone who has trouble getting around. There are AT devices to help people with limited hand or arm function remain independent, such as an adaptive lever for a reclining chair, or a built up handle on a utensil. Communication AT is available for people who have difficulty speaking; they range from simple picture word cards to more sophisticated devices for electronic technology.  Other AT is available for people with limited hearing or vision.

Many adaptive devices can be customized to meet the needs of the individual.

The Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) at the CPD specializes in working with individuals and creating  AT devices that answer a specific need.  The AT lab staff have built everything from wheelchair lifts for cars, a standing device so a six-year old can balance and play his Wii Fit, to a latch stimulation board for Alzheimer patients at a local nursing home.

According to Clay Christensen, AT Lab Coordinator, “That is what we are all about at the Assistive Technology Lab, changing lives for the better.”

Home modifications can be made as a person’s health and ability declines.  These can include grab bars and shower seats, as well as portable ramps for wheelchairs or electric scooters.  Hospital beds, commodes, and incontinence supplies can also be obtained from a healthcare supply store.

Financial help is possible through various programs to help with AT equipment or home modifications.  The Utah Assistive Technology Foundation at the CPD partners with Zion’s Bank to provide low-interest loans to help people acquire the equipment and make the modifications that they need.

As family caregivers become aware of the many resources that are available to them, they will find the supports that they need to continue to care for their loved one.

We take our hats off to those family caregivers who make life easier for their loved ones.

This is the last in a series of four blogs about the role and services provided by family caregivers across the nation.

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There is help for family caregivers

November 22, 2011 by cpehrson

Elderly woman hugging her three adult women who are who caregivers
An elderly woman struggles to meet the needs of her very ill husband whose health is declining rapidly.  He is very weak and needs help getting around the house.  She is afraid to leave him alone for more than a few minutes at a time, but she desperately needs to shop for groceries and run errands.  The strain of taking care of him day in and day out is causing her own health to decline.

A mother of two works hard each day to take care of her four year old daughter who has cerebral palsy and cannot walk or feed herself. Between taking care of her daughter,  a very energetic toddler, and trying to keep up on the laundry and housework, she is exhausted by the end of her day.  Her husband helps when he is home, but he owns his own business and works long hours in order to provide for his family.

What do these two women have in common?  They are both family caregivers and they are both in need of some help. Caregivers who have little outside support will soon start to feel stressed, and their own health may become jeopardized.

Where can they turn for help?

There are many resources that are available that they may not be aware of:

The National Caregivers Association is an organization that provides support, education, and resources for family caregivers.  Their purpose is to help transform family caregivers’ lives by removing barriers to health and well being.

With the right information and support, family caregivers can remain healthy and able to help their loved ones across the lifespan .

This is the third of four blogs about family caregivers for November’s National Family Caregivers month.


Who’s caring for the caregivers?

November 14, 2011 by cpehrson

Rosalyn Carter said it best: “There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”

Nationally, there are more than 65 million family caregivers providing care to aging or disabled family members.  Family caregiving requires the constant juggling of work, family life and maintaining their own autonomy. Without adequate support, maintaining and continually meeting the needs of the entire family is difficult.

In order to be able to take care of a family member with special health needs, caregivers need to first take care of themselves.

A recent study done by the Allsup and National Family Caregivers Association found that the top two concerns of caretakers are taking care of their own personal health, and a lack of respite care to give them a break.

“Too often caregivers are so focused on other people’s needs that they neglect their own,” National Family Caregivers Association President Suzanne Mintz states. “This survey tells us our members recognize the importance of self-care. They have internalized our message that if they cannot take care of themselves, they cannot take care of their loved ones.”

Some good advice is the suggestion to “…be good to  yourself.  Love, honor and value yourself.”  That includes making sure that caregiver’s health needs are taken care of and that ways are found for them to take a break from caretaking.

We applaud the great impact that family caregivers have on the lives of their loved ones.  Take good care of yourselves.

This is the second of four blogs about family caregivers for November’s National Family Caregivers month.





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