Tammy I. Glenn is the founder of HomeBoundResources.com and currently serves as the executive director for CAREGIVERS, one of the pilot programs for Volunteer Caregiving - in the nation. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for the National Volunteer Caregiving Network and was named "Who's Who in Healthcare" by the Pacific Coast Business Times. We recently asked for her thoughts on the challenges facing caregivers today. Here's what she had to say:
How did you become so passionate about helping caregivers?
At the age of 8, Tammy became a caregiver to her mother who was bedbound for the next 25 years of her life. Her personal journey collided with her professional experience as a major gift fundraiser when she was invited to lead CAREGIVERS: Volunteers Assisting the Elderly in Ventura County, Calif.
How has caregiving evolved since you started your career?
Today, caregivers have a lot more resources at their fingertips. When I was a child, the internet had not evolved and families were isolated with little to no support systems available.
What do you think eldercare will look like for the next generation?
While the senior population is one of the most exploding concerns of the century, it is still one of the least addressed topics. One of my biggest observations is the deterioration of generational support. Families no longer live in the same community. Where grandparents once played an important role in the lives of their children and grandchildren, elderly people are aging in place - alone. This breakdown of family is having national ramifications and it is costly - both spiritually and physically.
What changes would you like to see within the caregiving community?
We need some dramatic cultural shifts, which I'm not sure we'll see in my lifetime. Barring that, I hope we need more empathy, compassion and respect for the people that have paved the way for us in our society. They need a helping hand and we each have an opportunity to lend ourselves to those desperate situations.
What are the major challenges facing caregivers today?
Lack of planning puts everyone at risk. I think most people - of all ages - are in denial about what it means to age. They think they grow old, turn grey and die. If only it were that simple and straight forward. Unfortunately, some of us grow old, turn grey and then embark on a series of health problems that impede basic tasks of everyday life - like getting the groceries or doing a load of laundry. That's reality.
How can caregivers prevent some of the common problems they face?
Don't be afraid to have a conversation.
What types of training do you think is important for those caring for elderly patients?
If you're a family member caring for a loved one, there are more and more resources available. Don't be afraid to reach out for help.
Where can they get this type of training?
One place to start would be your local Area Agency on Aging. Also, mmLearn.org offers free training videos for caregivers of older adults. This free online training is available for anyone seeking practical ways to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of older adults in their care.
What are your favorite resources for those caring for the elderly?
If I were stranded on a desert island, I would take along a slipper foot bedpan, a bendy straw and wet wipes.
What advice do you find yourself repeating to caregivers over and over?