Free Coaching for Caregivers: Just What the Doctor Ordered!
Providing light for those who may feel like they’re in a dark tunnel, a new program from the Area Agency on Aging 1-B brings individualized support and guidance to caregivers of aging or chronically ill loved ones. The Caregiver Coaching Program matches family caregivers with a compassionate and knowledgeable volunteer coach who can help them find resources, make decisions, navigate a crisis, or lend a listening ear.
The program is free and available to caregivers who live or are caring for a loved one who lives in the AAA 1-B’s six-county service region: Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair or Washtenaw counties.
Program Manager Julie Lowenthal says the Caregiver Coaching Program was started because caregivers are often underserved, overwhelmed, and not getting the help they need. “Taking care of a loved one can be joyful, and it can also be confusing, isolating and downright exhausting,” she says. “Family caregivers are shouldering tremendous responsibilities, and they need support.”
Lowenthal says caregivers can feel like they’re on call 24/7, without time to take care of their own basic needs. “They are trying to manage a whack-a-mole of ever-changing problems while facing an ever-growing to-do list and dealing with some very complex emotions that can accompany caregiving,” she says. “Without support, these things can add up and lead to burnout, which is not good either for them or the person they are caring for.”
The program is designed to be very flexible, structured to respond to each caregiver’s needs. “It’s a relationship,” Lowenthal says, “tailored to that caregiver’s specific situation.” Once she assesses the caregiver’s needs and matches them with a coach, the two consult by phone, as needed, setting their own schedule.
The volunteer coaches serve as mentors and sounding boards. While not therapists, they give caregivers encouragement, compassion, and a place to “feel heard.”
Many of these volunteer coaches have cared for a loved one themselves, so they understand the challenges and can relate their own experiences.
The program is funded, in part, by grants from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. To find out more about the program, call 800-852-7795, visit MiCaregiverCoach.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.