Standing room only at a conference for caregivers at St. Luke’s United Methodist
Avenue Baptist (1989) remain active.Over 4,000 AIDS Care Team membersmade lie better or 3,953 persons rom1986 - 2011. As importantly, these trail-blazing volunteers inspired us to believethat the Care Team concept and meth-ods could be adapted to provide com-parable benefts to people with otherphysical and cognitive difculties. Eachsuccessive Care Team project beneft-ed rom the successes and shortcom-ings o its predecessors. The goal hasalways been to create and sustain e-ective means by which congregationscould bless and be blessed as they em-brace underserved weak and vulnerablepeople.
Complementing the Signature Pro-gram
Our frst priority has always beenthe excellence and integrity o theCare Team program. It is the seminalconcept rom which a caregivingprogram has grown to involve at least35,000 total people as team membersor persons served through 2011. Thisrecord o volunteer caregiving has beenwritten in partnership with Jewishand Christian congregations in Harrisand our adjacent counties. It is oursignature service program that hasbeen complemented, at times, by otherservices that contributed to the saety,independence, comort, and dignity opersons served by teams.During the years the AIDS CareTeam project was most active (1986– 1993), we provided pantry, casemanagement, and proessionalcounseling services or people with HIV/ AIDS. These auxiliary services wereconsistent with our mission and undedmainly by government contracts. Theywere undertaken because we coulddeliver them eectively and underwritethe costs while being disciplined toavoid adverse eects o ‘missioncreep.’ These services ended whenother agencies began the service, ourexpertise was not needed, or undingcontracts ended.As we better understood the needso persons with dementia, physicallyimpaired adults o any age, amilieso special needs children, and amilycaregivers, in general, we have oeredother services to complement theday-to-day kindnesses o Care Teammembers that make lie better or thepeople they serve.Responding to concerns and an-swering questions about where to goor help have always been part o thejob description o our proessional sta.People acing adver-sity oten do not knowwhere to turn or howto ask or help. Theyeel vulnerable, con-used, and, at times,embarrassed whenmaking inquiries. Thelast sound they wantor need to hear whenthey call is a recordingo menu options thatlikely do not address their individual con-cern. All calls to Interaith CarePartnersduring business hours are answered bya live person who listens sympatheti-cally to the caller’s story. Questions areanswered as accurately and completelyas possible. Inormation and reerral areimportant services to Care Team mem-bers and their care partners, as well asthe public. These inquiries, as well asrequests or Care Team support, are thefrst opportunities we have to displayone o our core values: respect, sensi-tivity, and compassion or all.Responding to telephone inquiriesis an educational activity that isinseparable rom the Care Teamprogram. Similarly, the continuededucation o team members duringmonthly meetings has been a criticaleature o the program since 1986.Our educational emphasis expandedin 2002 to oer amily caregivers anopportunity to come together, sharestories and gain strength rom eachother, and attend proessionally ledworkshops that address a broadscope o concerns such as Medicare,Medicaid, and veterans benefts, basiclegal documents and considerations,sel care, all prevention and homesaety, fnding services, home careoptions, navigating dementia, caringor stroke survivors, and many more.By 2011, six conerences or amilycaregivers eaturing more than 100workshops attracted 1,140registrants.Our embrace oamily caregivers becamemore comprehensive in2008. Common Ground:Caregiver Conversationswas introduced as a supportgroup service or caregivers.Many support groups areconvened and acilitatedby laypeople. A distinctiveeature o Common Ground is thatthese meetings are led by a volunteermental health proessional and a ormercaregiver. This leadership team oersproessional expertise and sensitivityborne rom personal experience.Through 2011, 194 amily caregivershave enrolled in 14 groups that meetat one o our partner congregations.Most o the groups are restricted tocaregivers o persons with dementia.They typically meet concurrently withan Alzheimer’s Care Team ‘GatheringPlace’ activity program attended by aloved one. This timing and convenientlocation makes it easier or a caregiverto have ellowship with others, sharestories and resources, and receive theemotional support they need to meeteach day.Making it easier to volunteer orto access help is a hallmark o all oour programs. Our proessional staprovides all support to Care Teammembers at their congregations.Educational conerences or caregiversare located now in 5 partnercongregations in Harris, Montgomery,and Ft. Bend counties. CommonGround meetings are similarly dispersedthrough our congregational network.Our most recent eort to support amilycaregivers is directed at those who areemployed.Studies indicate that 68% o care-givers work ull or part time. Being
Juan Ortiz greets all callers
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