One of the best parts of living in DC (and something I miss) is the lunch-time lectures hosted by various think-tanks and universities. There’s always something interesting happening, somewhere to go and learn. Several years ago, the Center for American Progress hosted a conversation with Jane Gross, a reporter for the New York Times. I immediately RSVP-d (and not just because the CAP lectures always had good sandwiches-the fancy kind, with crisp, fresh veggies). I’d recently finished Jane Gross’ A Bittersweet Season and was a huge fan of her blog on aging, The New Old Age.
In her book, and during the lunch conversation, she highlighted the startling lack of support our society provides to caregivers. Beyond our abysmal federal protections, void of any paid leave support, even in our families and communities, we frequently fail caregivers. While aging and caregiving is a part of the natural life-cycle, it is largely ignored in a way that other life-cycle moments are not. When someone gets married, or has a child, tradition dictates a joyous response from the community: throwing showers, providing advice, helping the couple prepare for their new role. In her book, Jane Gross points out that there’s no equivalent for caregivers. When someone has to take weeks or months off of work to care for a loved one, they are lucky if they get the time covered–and there’s definitely no “shower” equivalent, no tradition of a community rallying to fortify the caregiver with the tools and essentials needed for the new challenge.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the years (and many other thoughtful observations Jane Gross writes about in the book–seriously, highly recommend it!). And so, I was particularly excited to see this brilliant idea from the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program: a caregiver bootcamp. According to the press release, in the program: “Participants learn everything from how to prevent falls to how to calm a patient when they’re confused or agitated. The boot camp gives caregivers the best tools to manage their role, which can quickly become emotionally and physically taxing.”
Of COURSE UCLA would come up with such a clever program :) While much more is needed to support caregivers, this idea seems like a very important start. (Note: TBH, I don’t love the term “bootcamp” for something like this…and the headline’s use of the phrase “forced to take on caregiving” makes me a bit uncomfortable…..but tomato, tomato, it’s a great concept and definitely a step in the right direction!).