Reimagine Caregiving’s big year. What they’re doing and how to help.

By Amanda Sears, Grant Manager, Area Agency on Aging 1B

Reimagine Caregiving is an initiative designed to improve Washtenaw County’s caregiver support system while enhancing outcomes for family caregivers and older adults. In 2019, with support from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the Area Agency on Aging 1B (AAA 1-B) laid the groundwork for this initiative in a number of innovative ways:

Washtenaw Family Caregiver Network

We launched the Washtenaw Family Caregiver Network, which promotes a “no wrong door” strategy by providing access to caregiver resources through all participating organizations. Thirteen agencies meet regularly to share resources and address gaps in service.

Public Awareness Campaign

We launched a public awareness campaign to draw attention to the staggering number of family caregivers in the county, as well as the resources and supports that are available to them. Our #30Waysin30Days campaign, which ran in November 2019 during Family Caregivers Month, highlighted ways to appreciate caregivers. Our podcast, Caring Together, features diverse caregivers in various stages of their caregiver journey talking about the caregiving strategies that have worked for them and offering encouragement to other family caregivers. And a caregiver conference is being scheduled for 2020, which will include caregivers mentoring caregivers through a moderated panel, table-talk discussions, and additional programs.

Caregiver-Friendly Employment Practices

The AAA 1-B partnered with the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) to survey employers in Washtenaw County. The goal: To understand the prevalence of caregiver-friendly policies and to identify untapped opportunities to better support caregivers in the workplace. In the months ahead, we will compare local results with national trends for added context.

Extended Out-of-Home Respite

The AAA 1-B is working with partners to develop affordable, extended, out-of-home respite services for caregivers–services that are not dependent on variable state and federal funding streams. This out-of-home respite option would complete the continuum of respite supports for Washtenaw County caregivers who cannot afford to pay private market rates.

Legal Education

The AAA 1-B partnered with Legal Services of South Central Michigan (LSSCM) to provide legal assistance for family caregivers. Four in-person legal education sessions were provided for caregivers and three legal trainings were recorded and are available online. The AAA 1-B will work with LSSCM to develop a model “Caregiver Contract” to protect caregivers and care recipients evenhandedly.

Family Caregiver Resource Center

The Family Caregiver Resource Center was created in July 2019. The Caregiver Hotline (844) 734-CARE was created to connect Washtenaw caregivers to a Caregiver Resource Specialist in the AAA 1-B Resource Center who can answer questions and provide options counseling. All AAA 1-B Resource Specialists have been trained to better identify caregiver stress and signs of potential burnout over the phone. Education and cross-training for the AAA 1-B Resource Specialists will continue in the months ahead.

Mobility Management Options

Myride2, the AAA 1-B’s nationally recognized one-call, one-click mobility management service, was expanded into Washtenaw County to help caregivers make transportation arrangements for their care recipients, thereby helping to reduce caregiver stress. Ongoing funding for this important service has been provided by the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan.

Adult Day Program

The AAA 1-B collaborated with Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County’s (CSSW) adult day program at The Oaks to pilot extended early morning service hours in the summer of 2019, however utilization of these extended hour services did not warrant continuation of the pilot after September 2019.

Volunteer Caregiver Program

The AAA 1-B will develop and implement a caregiver mentor program that includes training volunteer Caregiver Coaches to provide short-term or longer-term mentorship to family caregivers. The AAA 1-B will provide training and management of the program by adopting the best practice, evidenced-based model from the Department of Senior Programs and Services in Westchester County, NY. The Caregiver Coaching Program will launch in the spring of 2020.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

The AAA 1-B is partnering with the Michigan State University (MSU) Kinship Care Resource Center to provide respite and trainings to grandparents raising grandchildren–the programs and trainings will begin in early 2020.

Family Caregiver Learning Center

The Family Caregiver Learning Institute was developed as an online family caregiver resource center. It serves as a hub for caregiver training and support activities.

Caregiver Support Groups

The AAA 1-B is working with the Asian Center of Southeast Michigan to develop new monthly support groups at three senior housing locations in Ann Arbor that have large populations of Chinese American older adults caring for their spouses. 95 percent of these elders do not speak English, and 98 percent of them do not drive, which prohibit them from participating in support groups outside the building. The monthly support groups will be facilitated by bilingual MSW students from  the University of Michigan School of Social Work.