By Sarah Hollander
Terry Supancic took on caregiving gradually over four years, from sorting medications for her mother, Teresa, and arranging meals to taking over her finances when dementia set in.
By the time her mother died last year, at 92, Supancic had learned a wide range of practical skills and ways to deal with her emotions. Now she volunteers as an AARP Prepare to Care presenter, helping others create a caregiving plan for loved ones.
“I can look at that time, in hindsight, and go forward with real confidence,” said Supancic, 67, a retired pastoral associate from Warren. “Nowadays, there are more caregiver supports. We really want people to realize there are all these resources.”
Prepare to Care workshops are one of AARP Ohio’s initiatives—along with advocating for caregiver tax credits and more home-based services—to improve conditions for family caregivers in the state.
The goal: to help people consider caregiving before a crisis hits.
AARP hosted training sessions this year for volunteer presenters in the Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Findlay areas. Those volunteers have gone on to give Prepare to Care talks at libraries, community centers, places of worship and organization meetings.
“By doing this, we vastly multiply the number of presenters and will be able to reach so much more of the public,” said Ken Davis, AARP Ohio’s manager of outreach and volunteer engagement. He hopes they will host 75 sessions across the state by the end of the year.
Caregiving needs increase
Prepare to Care covers what to expect and how to create a caregiving plan, including starting the conversation, setting goals, forming a team to help and reviewing finances.
Common challenges are the reluctance of some parents to talk about money issues, and caring for people who’ve become angry or combative as a side effect of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Caregivers just need to know they’re not alone,” Supancic said.
Husband-and-wife team Robert and Josephine Wilson, 73 and 72, respectively, have trained as presenters. The Akron residents have experience caring for their mothers. Robert, a retired facility manager, also visits the sick as a church deacon.
The program’s emphasis on creating a team (with help from siblings, relatives, friends and the community) and focusing on self-care resonated with the couple.
“It can be all-encompassing and overwhelming,” said Josephine, a retired accountant. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of someone else.”
Ohio has roughly 1.5 million family caregivers who provide nearly 1.4 billion hours of unpaid care a year, worth $16.5 billion.
The state’s over-65 population is projected to increase during the next decade, so caregiving numbers will likely multiply, said Kelley Neal, AARP Ohio’s volunteer engagement specialist.
“America is aging,” she said. “The role of caregiver is growing.”
Prepare to Care workshops are free and open to all.
To request a presentation or volunteer as a presenter, contact Neal at email@example.com or call 866-389-5653.
For more information or a copy of the Prepare to Care guide, visit aarp.org/caregiving or call 877-333-5885 (English) or 888-971-2013 (Spanish).
Sarah Hollander is a writer living in Cleveland.