Are you an informal/unpaid caregiver to a family member or close friend? While that can be tremendously fulfilling and satisfying, it can also be very stressful and overwhelming, especially during the holidays. There is hope for relief and opportunity to connect! We recently met Denise Brown, an award winning Influencer in Aging, author, entrepreneur and family caregiver herself. She offers a supportive online community and training for all stages of caregiving.

According to an October 2022 press release from Age of Majority, “Of the nearly 50 million family (unpaid) caregivers of older adults in North America many are largely relying on their own instincts, without any paid help, in tackling a myriad of daily care responsibilities – from providing personal care and transportation to managing finances and medications.” 

“A groundbreaking new study of 2,156 family caregivers in Canada and the U.S. … found caregivers are spending an average of nearly four hours a day providing care – equating to a part-time job … Adding to their care challenges is that 40% of family caregivers are also working full-time and another 12% are working part-time. One in five caregivers also has to manage disagreements and/or resistance in dealing with their care recipient.”

Innovative Ideas

One of the biggest challenges families face in caring for their elders is the lack of available trained and trusted people to do the work and/or the lack of money to pay for quality care. One of the innovative ideas that Denise offers is to conduct a guided work session to help the family members explore how a family budget could be used to help offset the career earnings loss of a family caregiver. The plan could then be reviewed and optimized by professionals (financial planners, legal, tax accountants, etc.). We often dismiss valid options for who would be willing and available to help, but having a ‘coach’ to guide you through this journey can make all the difference.
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Can social robots help?

One of the big challenges for family caregivers is the amount of time they spend training new people in how their ‘caree’ likes to have things done. Denise has some great ideas for how social robots could be used to help train and support those part-time direct care workers or PSWs. With the large tablet on it’s chest and camera in it’s eye, Mindy is well-suited to taking and playing videos to show those backup caregivers exactly where to find supplies and how you want things done.

According to Denise, “We know that a caregiving experience can interrupt your career. On days when you feel like you’ve lost everything, there are some gains that you can’t see but you can trust that they are there. And we want to help you see that all you put into a personal caregiving experience doesn’t have to be lost when that caregiving experience is over.”

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Caring Our Way

While you are in the midst of being a family caregiver, it can be a challenge to find the time for yourself. “Self-care” is a popular buzzword these days, but in the context of being a family caregiver, it can be seen as simply another task/chore to complete and feel guilty about if you don’t get it done. 

You may not be able to get in the car to go somewhere, but if you can find 5-10 minutes to get into a virtual community, then Caring Our Way could be the kind of ‘self-care’ that helps you find some respite.

About Denise M. Brown:

Denise Brown supports individuals managing difficult life experiences with coaching, planning and train-ing. Through her work, Denise helps clients find hope, possibilities and a path forward.

Denise began helping individuals who care for a family member in 1990 and launched a business to help them in 1995. She created one of the first online caregiving communities in 1996 which she managed until its sale in 2020. She now develops and delivers training programs for the workplace and for individuals who want to coach family caregivers. More than 300 individuals from seven different countries have enrolled in her training programs offered through her company, The Care-giving Years Training Academy.

Denise is the author of several books that provide insights, comfort and hope to those who care, including “The Caregiving Years, Your Guide to Navigating the Six Caregiving Stages,” and “Af-ter Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again.” Her free resource, A Workbook for Your Workplace Wellness, help individuals who care, grieve and work.

Denise began helping her parents in 2004 after her father’s bladder cancer diagnosis. Her mom, who had Parkinson’s disease, died in August 2022, one year to the date after Denise’s brother died. She now cares for her father who is 91.

Next Avenue named Denise a 2017 Influencer in Aging, one of “50 advocates, researchers, thought leaders, innovators, writers and experts who continue to push beyond traditional boundaries and change our understanding of what it means to grow older.”

About the 36-hour Christmas Chat

From 12 pm ET on December 24th until 12am (midnight) on December 25th,  the chat room at Caring Our Way will be open. This is a time of year when you may not be where you want to be and may need a place to “go”. Denise and her team of volunteers will be opening an online chat room for 36 hours for any family caregiver and former family caregiver who needs a place to vent, share or connect over Christmas. If you need time away from family, if you need to connect with others who understand, if you need an empathetic ear who knows how it can be, please find a quiet moment to step into this Christmas chat room.

To join simply create your free account on CaringOurWay.com and then click into the Caring Our Way chat room.

If you have questions about how social robots can help with the caregiver experience, please contact us.

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