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Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Rona Barrett: Caregivers Boot Camp Would Give Our Homefront Warriors a Fighting Chance

You’ve parachuted down onto the frontline of a battle.

You’re untrained and on your own. You need supplies, but you don’t know how to access them. Someone in front of you needs medical attention. You're not a doctor nor do you play one on TV. You’re overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed — shell-shocked.

But, the sergeant in your head yells, “Stand up and fight. You’re in the Army now!”

Sound familiar? You are not alone. You’ve entered the Caregiver Armed Forces — 44 million strong and growing every day.

Of course, if you were a real soldier you’d be surrounded by a platoon. You’d have a master sergeant to train you, a point person to navigate, a medic to triage, and a company clerk to push the paperwork and keep up with supplies.

And then there’d be support for your family back on the homefront and for your much-needed R&R.

Now no one expects a “real” soldier to take on a battle all by his or herself. But as a caregiver you are a one-person platoon — with no relief in sight.

So wouldn’t it be great — she said reaching for her magic wand — if we had a Caregivers Boot Camp to better prepare us for the physical, medicinal, emotional and psychological aspects of our tour of duty?

Training would include how to lift, move and assist those we care for so we don't end up physically M*A*S*Hed.

We would learn how to recognize symptoms and ailments and better advocate for our patients’ needs.

We would learn about identifying and addressing the unavoidable but damaging emotional and psychological baggage associated with caregiving: guilt, resentment, anger, isolation and — a newly identified stressor — anticipatory grief.

We would also be given the tools to create the all-important support system of our families and/or friends who could pitch in and provide respite care to allow, as the Caregiver Action Network tells us, "the caregiver to rest, recharge and remember that there is life beyond caregiving."

We would complete navigation courses that would help us locate funding and support resources to reduce the amount of money that continues to shrink our bank accounts. A Rand study estimates the average amount of lost wages, pension and Social Security benefits for caregivers age 50-plus averages more than $300,000.

While our Caregivers Boot Camp is certainly doable, it is still in the conceptual stage. But the Golden Inn & Village is now a concept-turned-reality so I believe we can make Caregivers Boot Camp a reality. Throughout the county, human service providers and philanthropic foundations are beginning to talk about and plan how to form an alliance of support for caregivers.

In the meantime, Santa Barbara City College’s Dorothy D. Rupe Certified Nursing Assistant and Home Health Aide Program offers a series of skills videos to anyone who seeks to improve the care of their loved one. AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center offers help and advice for senior caregivers. Access them through the Internet.

Until the next time … keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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