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The second year of Courage to Caregivers’ programming has been one of the most challenging and most fulfilling I can remember.
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis can’t be understated, not only for our caregivers but for our staff as well. Without hesitation, I can say that the uncertainty and fear amidst COVID-19 have increased the request for services to support mental illness caregivers exponentially.
Now, more than ever, it is essential to connect and support caregivers. Before the pandemic, one in five Americans were living with mental illness. Now, the cases have increased by anywhere from two to four times. More than 34% of Americans say they now live with anxiety or depression. How does that impact caregivers? The stress of caregiving is literally taking an average of a decade off life expectancy.
Courage to Caregivers is here to help.
Our goal is always to be in the caregiver burnout prevention business. How have we responded to COVID?
- In March 2020, we moved all of our programs to a virtual platform. We are now serving more caregivers than ever!
- We’ve added a third day to our service offerings, supporting caregivers no matter where they live, including Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina, New Jersey, Utah, Colorado, Texas, California and Delaware.
- We saw a decrease in the stress of caregiving in our one-year pilot of our Breathing Meditation program by 48% on average, and a 36% reduction of stress in our Support Groups.
As we push toward the end of the year, we have a few organizational milestones we are excited to report. Earlier this month, we had a Summit for professional and family caregivers, called “Caring for the Caregiver: Illuminating HOPE in Uncertain Times with a Focus on Connectedness, Self-Care and Empowerment.” Also this month, we kicked off our first fundraiser, called “Illumination! 2020,” encouraging everyone who is involved with Courage to Caregivers — volunteers, staff, and donors — to be Illuminators in their communities. If you’re interested in joining us, please contact us via our website.
Why have we gone to such lengths to continue our programs? Because we KNOW they work:
Stephanie, who lives in South Carolina and is launching her own business, talks to her peer support volunteer on Mondays, attends breathing meditation and a support group on Wednesdays, and then looks forward to receiving her weekly email on Thursdays. “I have more than one avenue for support. While these programs are all new, it’s nice to know others have similar struggles.”
Our programs also help people like Sally every single day:
“COVID has been a challenge — there’s more to fuel my loved one’s anxiety that was already there… My direct caregiving has increased. It’s been hard to find any programs for my loved ones or at-home caregivers during this time. The burden falls on me. I work full-time and am a full-time caregiver, therapist, cook and maid.
I look forward to the Courage to Caregivers programs every week. Getting together with others with similar stories to mine helps with my ability to cope. We’re all in this together! We share ideas. There’s not a single time I don’t take away something that I use later.”
Our goal is to empower caregivers with the tools they need so they can provide support without burnout. Our solutions include One-to-One Caregiver Peer Support, Breathing Meditation classes and Support Groups.
But we can’t continue to do this critical work without you.
Help me celebrate the important role that caregivers play, during National Caregivers Month in November, by committing to support Courage to Caregivers now!
Supporting our programs is easy. All you need to do is visit our website and donate there (no fees).
And, if you have more questions about Courage to Caregivers, I’d be more than happy to discuss our programs, program sponsorships or the services that we offer at your convenience. You can email me. I will respond to you personally.
Thanks again for the way YOU illuminate HOPE for caregivers everywhere!
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” —Mahatma Gandhi
We really have three topics this week – volunteering, mentorship, and saying no – but they’re all wrapped up in the overall idea of giving you.
According to HelpGuide, volunteering can “reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.”
One specific way we can give of ourselves is through mentorship. This is especially true for caregivers. While others in our lives may express compassion and sympathy, only someone who has walked in a caregiver’s shoes can truly understand the feelings, frustrations, worries, and logistical concerns of caregiving. At Courage to Caregivers, our Support Groups and One-to-One Caregiver Peer Support programs serve as connections between caregivers – those who want to be mentors, and those who need mentors.
As we make choices about volunteering and mentorship, however, it’s important to remember that we all need to say “no” sometimes. By saying “no,” we are able to place boundaries on our time, energy, and space. Failure to do so can leave us feeling overburdened and overcommitted … and I’m speaking from experience here. If you need help with this, and most of us do, here are 14 ways that you can say “no.”
Another way to look at it is that knowing when to say “no” also helps you know when to say “yes.” To get to your best “yes” … to give the best of YOU to others and to yourself … start by deciding what you want to learn and what you want to share.
Giving of ourselves benefits others, and it can be a powerful form of self-care, too. When you give, you also gain. When you focus on the needs of others and support your community, you can find a new sense of purpose. When you serve others and recognize their worth as human beings, you can improve your own life experience and outlook. When you give in ways that aren’t related to your role as caregiver, you can discover more about your own interests and what makes YOU unique.
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers
Design Your Downtime
As life continues, celebrations happen, curveballs are thrown, and general life develops, it can be hard to remember you have interests outside of work and family. Your outside interests often have a positive effect on your work and family life. This is all the more reason to work on designing your downtime. Designing your downtime means not only doing what you love purely because you love it but also carving out the time to do it. This is not always easy. Maybe the best way to think about this is something our summer intern Maximilian Lauster said. He explained that when he gets stressed or overwhelmed, the best thing for him to do is completely forget about it, drown out the world for a little while, and then come back. Max does this by playing chess or listening to music, but you can do it however you want to. No matter what form it takes, designing your downtime is essential to life and essential to your happiness. It’s a work in progress – yet, my guess is that YOU are, too! AND you deserve it.
We have several topics to discuss this week – all wrapped up in creative expression. There are so many methods of creative expression: art, music, writing, dance, visual arts, drama, crafts, etc. What’s common about all of these is that they let you translate your feelings and emotions into a medium that you can share with others or keep private if you wish.
Doing something creative can change our perspective, point us down new paths, influence our problem-solving, inspire us to take risks, and much more. When we’re being creative, we might find that we feel less depressed, less stressed, more engaged, and more able to control our emotions. Feelings can be messy and sometimes irrational, but it’s healthy to express your feelings in a creative way that leaves you balanced and in control.
Many people find that creating, viewing, or discussing art can help them release or express their feelings. Art can be a healthy outlet to highlight awareness of hidden feelings and a way to communicate something that may be difficult to put into words. Reflecting on art can provide greater insight and understanding, and by sharing art, the viewer validates the feelings of the artist.
Music is also a powerful form of creative expression. Whether you’re listening or playing, music can transport you back in time, influence your emotions, set a scene, or inspire you to take action. It can console you in times of grief or loneliness, allow you to release anger in a healthy way, bring peace and calmness to your life, or encourage you to move your body. When words aren’t enough to encompass the intensity of your feelings, music can help.
The choice of creative expression is highly personal, and it includes self-reflection and self-discovery. Journaling is a creative and safe way to gain greater insight about your deepest thoughts and feelings, your most difficult challenges, what brings you joy, and what makes you uncomfortable. By writing about these things, you have the opportunity to dissect, analyze, and reframe them into something that makes better sense or presents new solutions. You gain greater perspective, insight, and understanding of yourself and others.
Whatever way you decide to create, remember the words of Henri Matisse: “Creativity takes courage.” Creativity is not about drawing inside the lines, hitting the perfect note, or finding the right words. It’s about having the courage to take chances and make mistakes. And COURAGE is important to us. It’s part of our name.
So, get out there today and try something new. Take a RISK. Be brave, bold, courageous, and CREATIVE with your day.
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers
“Have you ever thought that your relationship with your pet is one of the best in your life? Pets provide simple, supportive, confidential support without criticism, advice, or conflict. They provide unconditional positive regard and make us feel needed, wanted, and valued.” – Shawn Burn, PhD
This week’s topic is a fun one – it’s all about how much we gain from having a pet. Just think of all the physical, mental, and emotional benefits we get from pets. Pets have an incredible ability to calm and soothe humans. They don’t judge, they provide unconditional love, they are a source of empathy and companionship, and they’re great to have around during a pandemic!
If you don’t have a pet, there are many reasons to get one. Having an animal friend can help you increase your activity level, get out of the house more, be more social, and get rid of that lonely feeling. Pets are great listeners, and they can be great motivators to help you meet your goals. For example, if you need more exercise, try walking the dog a few more times each week. Or if you just need more self-care time, maybe some extra snuggles will do the trick.
If that’s not enough, here’s a list from Paws for People of some of the therapeutic benefits we get from the simple act of petting:
- Produces an automatic relaxation response
- Stabilizes blood pressure
- Reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Slows breathing in those who are anxious
- Releases hormones such as phenylethylamine, the same effect as chocolate
- Diminishes overall physical pain
And there’s more. According to HelpGuide, studies have shown that:
- Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets.
- People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets.
- Playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
- Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets.
- Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without pets.
- Pet owners over age 65 make 30 percent fewer visits to their doctors than those without pets.
Perhaps most important of all, Shawn Burn notes that “the emotional bond between people and their pets is particularly therapeutic because it’s nonjudgmental. Your pet won’t judge you for wearing sweatpants 24/7, being grumpy, or having that extra glass of wine.”
In other words, pets will accept you for being YOU.
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers
Three weeks and one day is the last day you can make a difference and VOTE Blue! I am asking you if you have not voted yet, and if you haven’t requested an absentee ballot to consider early voting, call your local board of elections and get the information you need to make a change.
We have lived with Trump for 4 years and he made promises and he could have followed through on them but he spent so much time talking about his PLAN but never offered US the American people what that entailed. He gave us a tax break and took it back the following year when we paid our taxes, yet he has not paid his taxes!
Talk does not take care of the American People, you and me. Talk, discussion, weighing options, and listening to what the average Joe needs is what our President and the House of Representatives and the Senate should be responding to. Trump created such commotion in building a wall that is now crumbling and falling! What a waste of money that could have been on Health Care and or Job Creation.
Trump walked into the Oval Office with a strong economy, he made the economy worse for the average Joe but kept his cronies gaining wealth that was not shared! JOBs, let me tell you that the JOB market even before the Pandemic was meek. If you or someone you know what looking to garner a job (not even career) to put food on the table and roof over your head it was not easy, why do you think so many of us are working multiple jobs with no benefits, including sick days.
If Trump didn’t make the promised changes he eluded to over the last four years why do you think the next four years will be any better. Get a grip Trump and his cronies do not care about US. If Trump cared about you, and your well being he would, he would have listened to the scientists.doctors and would have shared REAL Information with us from the get-go. He has not taken the precautions that he needed to take and he continues to go out in public without a mask and not socially distancing, well making ‘fun’ of those of us who are trying to reduce this Pandemic!
I won’t even discuss his need to outbalance the Supreme Court and yet says he must do this because the Dems will do it if they win. The American People 52% to 44% believe the Supreme Court decision should not be made until after the Election. Why is he in such a hurry, have you caught on to his garbage yet?
Check this out and see the Republicans backing Biden https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/18/politics/republicans-supporting-biden/index.html
Also – “The last living former Republican president, George W. Bush, has said he won’t back Trump. Nor will his brother Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida who was mercilessly ridiculed by Trump when they fought for the GOP nomination in 2016.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewsolender/2020/09/27/all-the-republicans-who-have-endorsed-joe-biden-for-president/#3bc762557340
Consider the facts, Trump wants to cut or eliminate SS – if you are a senior or if you are approaching age 65 or know someone – do they have enough money to survive even one year on SS? What if they were to have less or none? Are you going to support mom and dad, your grandparents, or your neighbor next door?
Biden and Harris have a plan https://www.forbes.com/sites/johngoodman/2020/09/28/the-bidenharris-economic-plan/#28cb2dcc73ce
Yes, Biden will raise taxes for those that can afford it- if they earn 400,000.00 dollars or more a year. If you earn less like many of us – guess what our taxes will NOT INCREASE. Taxes are necessary without them infrastructure cannot be maintained or improved.
Make a plan now – VOTE Blue – If you have an absentee ballot if possible take it directly to your board of elections, I am taking mine to Summit County here in Ohio today. My son, husband, and I have completed our absentee ballots and I will take them all sealed to the DropBox, and I will track them to ensure they were received and ready for counting. If you cannot deliver them personally mail them and track them. If you can get someone to drive you to your Board of Elections – not your precinct, accept the ride to place it in the dropbox!
Please note – if you do not want Trump – a vote for anyone but Biden supports TRUMP – help bring the United States back in line with the needs of the Average Citizen – do not be bullied!
First, I want to remind you that this is Mental Health Awareness Week, and Saturday, October 10, is World Mental Health Day. Show your support for those living with mental illness by keeping the conversation going and working to end mental health stigma and discrimination.
As we begin the month of October, our new theme is outside interests, and this week’s topic is hobbies. During this global pandemic, and perhaps as a caregiver in general, how often have you found yourself asking, “Who has the time for fun or outside activities right now?” But that’s the point. It’s so important to set aside time for YOU, to do an activity that you enjoy, with no connection to caregiving. Having outside interests, such as a hobby that brings you joy, can help you relax, reduce stress, and expand your horizons.
One of the silver linings of this pandemic is that it has given many people the opportunity to pursue outside interests and hobbies – pandemic pastimes! Here’s an article on how hobbies have helped people stay positive during lockdowns.
People are finding the time to do many things, such as completing old projects, updating photo albums, discovering new possibilities in the craft bin, renewing their love of photography, singing, or journaling, or even finishing a jigsaw puzzle. Some have turned a love of sewing into sewing masks. Others have used their talents in the kitchen to provide baked goods for frontline workers. Maybe you dedicated some time to de-cluttering and were able to donate some clothing or gently used items to someone in need.
I have a lot of hobbies, but one of my favorites has always been gardening. Spending time outside in my garden in any season connects me with the earth. I love the fresh air, sunshine, and just digging in the dirt!
Sometimes, the smallest things can give you the greatest joy. We love this concept of finding micro-joys, shared by Thrive Global. “The secret to micro-joys is that you are aware and tuned in enough to appreciate them around you. To find the joy, you have to simply be present and ‘smelling the roses,’ even for just a moment.”
So, if you’re looking for a new hobby or outside interest, start by thinking about what brings you joy. What are those things that bring a smile to your face and make your heart sing when you just think about them? What fills YOUR soul?
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers
For more information, contact:
Tina Boyes, Executive Director
Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance
Kenmore First Friday to ring in the fall season by getting to Akron’s roots
Parking lot show to feature canal songs of Hey Mavis, Madison Cummins, and The Stirs
Sept. 28, 2020 (AKRON, OH) – On Friday, Oct. 2, Laura & Eddie from Americana favorites Hey Mavis will headline a night of Appalachian music from 6 to 9 p.m. in Kenmore Boulevard’s South Alley parking lots, which are accessible via 13th and 15th St.
The duo’s Kenmore First Friday Drive-In Concert appearance comes on the heels of the Knight Foundation’s $4 million grant to convert where the Ohio & Erie Canal enters Akron’s Summit Lake into a 35-acre public park connecting the Kenmore and Summit Lake neighborhoods. Hey Mavis’s most recent album, “Silver Ribbon Dream – Songs & Stories of the Ohio & Erie Canal,” gives listeners a lens into those who lived and worked in the area during the canal’s earliest days.
“This part of Ohio owes much of its early development to the canal,” said Laurie Carner, Hey Mavis’s lead singer and songwriter. “The conditions for canal workers were rough and difficult, but song, music, and camaraderie helped them get through.”
Tina Boyes, executive director of the Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance, said she hopes the concert does the same for her community. “These are lean times, particularly for our local small business owners, and it can be easy to get discouraged,” she explained, “but the music and camaraderie of shows like these give our little music district hope for the future.”
The Hey Mavis duo will be joined by Americana trio The Stirs and Madison Cummins, whose latest release “Antidote” is included in 91.3 FM The Summit’s rotation. Carhop food service will be provided by ThaiSoul Fusion, which recently relocated to Kenmore Boulevard from Romig Road.
A suggested donation of $5 per car will support the ongoing revitalization efforts of Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance. In addition, attendees will get a link to a free download of Hey Mavis’s newest song, “Yes, the Gypsy Music.”
Cars will be parked at least six feet apart, and attendees are welcome to place lawn chairs in their parking spots. In accordance with the Ohio Department of Health guidelines, face coverings are recommended.
Kenmore First Fridays are presented by Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance, the Kenmore Chamber of Commerce, and a variety of generous sponsors. The Oct. 2 event is funded in part by the Friends of Chestnut Ridge Park and Akron Community Foundation. For full event details, visit www.facebook.com/betterkenmore.