Inspiring Caregiver Awards

We are honored to judge the 2011 Inspiring Caregiver Awards nominations for the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern Maryland. Yesterday, we read nomination essays and rated on a scale of 1-5 these nominees in five different categories. It’s near to impossible to judge these entries. The selflessness and love they show to others is an inspiration to so many. As one of several judges, I can imagine that lots of tissues were used yesterday as we went about the task of rating the entries.

Twenty-five individuals were nominated – really a fraction of the caregivers we have in our area, as the awards are for Alzheimer’s and dementia care only.  There were three categories of nomination: Family caregivers, professional caregivers, and enduring caregivers. Some of them have dedicated their lives to helping others with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

The impact that these caregivers have on the loved one that they are caring for or their patients is amazing. Perhaps what is even more profound is the striking difference these individuals make on the people around them – coworkers, children, neighbors, friends. It does not take a special person to be a caregiver – so many average people have had to deal with the unexpected care of a loved one. While we are all special in our own way, becoming a caregiver can bring out the special in a person who never knew they were capable of such compassion, such tenderness, such love and most definitely such strength. So when I say it does not take a special person to be a caregiver, what I mean is that caregiving can make someone more special than they ever thought possible.

The men and women in these nominations are ordinary people rising to meet extraordinary challenges. And succeeding ! We know that the entries we’ve reviewed represent just a portion of the amazing caregivers in the Southern Maryland Area. These are the first Inspiring Caregiver Awards; we know there will be many more. In my next post, I’ll share with you portions of some of the essays submitted. Bring the tissues!


Exciting Times

What an exciting time to be in the home care business! Tomorrow, I’ll be traveling to LaPlata to meet with the planning committee for the 2011 Dementia Care Conference scheduled for November 2, 2011. Sponsored primarily by the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern Maryland, we’ve got some totally new ideas for this year. Just today, I spent an hour in an online webinar learning about some fantastic ideas for packaging services for retirement communities. And last week, I attended the Memory Walk 2010 Appreciation Breakfast. Circle of Care received a plaque for being a Bronze Sponsor and a shout out for our involvement on the planning committee. The real heroes at the Breakfast; however, were the teams of walkers who raised thousands of dollars in honor of their loved ones who suffer from Alzheimer’s  Disease.

More than the meetings and awards, what makes this such a great time to be involved in home care is the opportunity to serve families in need. As our huge baby-boomer population moves into its retirement years, more and more people need care. Just this week we received a call from a family that we have served two other times in the last five years. We cared for a great-aunt, a grandparent, and now they are looking for help for a parent. There is no award that can compare with the trust that comes from repeat clients. This is a testament to our dedicated and professional staff of caregivers that work tirelessly to provide quality care for those with care needs. When they can’t be their personally, our clients know that we’ll provide for their loved ones needs as if they were our own.

Balancing Work and Caregiving

The role of primary caregiver for an elderly loved one is packed with concerns, not the least of which is the anxiety about the effect this new role is having on your work.  There is no sense muddling through day after day giving less than your best to your boss, your family, your loved one, and yourself. Do yourself a favor and take some time to sit down and really evaluate your situation, rather than just running to put out one fire after another. It’s important to decide that you can and will take control of this situation to the best of your ability – and what you can’t do yourself, you will find someone else to do. Believe me, the sooner you do this you will begin to breathe easier.

First, if you are in an emergency situation and your loved one has been suddenly hospitalized and is now being released, or if the usual primary caregiver has unexpectedly left their post, perhaps the best thing to do is just ask for a few days off to explore your options and get things back to some semblance of normal. You do not want to create any bad feelings by trying to handle this from your desk without telling anyone.  If that is not possible, speak to your supervisor or someone in human resources about your situation. Explain that while you understand that you are needed at the office, you may need to use the office phone to handle this personal business and that you may be called away at a moment’s notice until the situation is resolved. Promise them that you will keep them informed of the progress of the situation so they can plan on when to expect your full attention to return to your work. Respectfully ask the supervisor if he/she will sign a document if you produce a record of your conversation.

A more in-depth assessment is necessary for long-term care situations.  Caring for a loved one is quite often done by the seat of our pants. You need to make doctor appointments, but some specialists are booked so far in advance you can’t possibly know of future conflicts. You know prescriptions need to be refilled, but you are still doing that as they run out.  But you want to try to streamline as many of these things as possible – ordering medication online may be a viable option or putting prescriptions on automatic refill so we don’t run out. You need to start by documenting all the things that need to be done. You can’t possibly come up with a schedule to handle these things if you don’t have them recorded.

Your job probably comes with a job description, but you’ve been there a long time and people have added things to that list over the years. Update that job description, you need a clear picture of what you do. Make it in list form. Put your scheduled hours at the top. Also, write in the hours you normally work – sometimes this is through lunch or you arrive early most days.  Notate which of these responsibilities has a firm deadline and which are more flexible.

The next phase of your assessment will be to write a job description for the role of caregiver for your loved one. List the responsibilities and the amount of time that each of them takes. This is not the time to involve your loved one. Listing the tasks associated with their care might make them feel like they were a burden if they were involved in this process. There may be a few things on this list such as accompanying them to doctor’s visits or doing the grocery shopping or the list might be quite extensive if, for instance, you are going over there every day to make sure medications are taken, meals are eaten, and they are bathed.  This is a complete job description – not just what you do. If others are involved, the things they do are part of the job description as well.

You are now armed with information. And information is power. There simply may not be enough time in the week to get it all done. You can now take some action to come up with a workable plan. 

Can you reduce your work load at the office? Armed with your new job description, you can approach your boss about reducing hours or working a more flexible schedule. Show them how your job has expanded over time to encompass more than can be done in a 40-hour week. Hopefully, they will assist you in creating a schedule that accomodates your new role as a caregiver.

Can you ask a family member to help with some of the caregiving tasks? It is easy to get discouraged because it seems that no one else is helping, but sometimes that is simply a matter of communication. I remember blowing up at my brother one time that I needed more help with our mom. His response way, “Why haven’t you asked?” From his viewpoint, I was doing fine because I didn’t ask for help. The beauty of having a written “job description” for the role of caregiver is that now when you ask for help you can be specific. Some family members will be better at running errands than actual physical care. Some will be willing to do things like cleaning or yard work but are not comfortable with helping mom take a bath. You can even enlist the help of children and teens when you break it down to tasks they can handle.

Consider hiring a professional caregiver to take some of this burden from you. The most important thing that you can give your loved ones is your attention. If at the end of the day you only have time to do a task or give someone your attention, choose the latter. A professional caregiver can help your loved one with their personal care, their meals, their housekeeping, their laundy – but they can not replace YOU. Choose to bring in paid help for the tasks that keep you from personally giving your family your time and attention. You won’t regret that decision.

Even if you are physically capable of keeping all these plates spinning, it will only take an unforeseen event to bring everything tumbling down. Plan ahead to have a safety net in place.

The above information is not intended to be a complete process – there may be many other steps to consider. If you need help getting started, I’d like to help you. Please contact me at

Circle of Care Partners with Alzheimer’s Association of Southern Maryland

In the United States, 5.3 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and a new individual is diagnosed with the disease every 70 seconds, according to Alzheimer’s Association statistics. Circle of Care proudly serves many families affected by this heartbreaking disease. As an annual sponsor of the Alzheimer’s Association®  in Southern Maryland and the Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Conference, Circle of Care want to highlight the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern Maryland and the brave families living with this disease and the tireless efforts of those affiliated with the Alzheimer’s Association here in Southern Maryland every chance we can.

The Alzheimer’s Association is inviting Southern Maryland residents to become Champions in the fight against Alzheimer’s by participating in the annual Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk®  on September 17, 2011. Memory Walk 2011 will again have two locations: Asbury Solomons Retirement Community in Solomons, MD and Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, MD.

In Maryland alone, Alzheimer’s disease has seen an increase of 10% from statistics gathered in 2000. In terms of economics, 2009 alone estimated 187,814 family caregivers exhausting over 200,000 hours of unpaid care. The total value of this unpaid care was almost $2.5 million. A large percentage of these family caregivers are also in the workforce making it necessary additionally to hire paid caregivers.  A 1997 report by MetLife and the National Alliance for Caregiving estimated the cost to U. S. businesses in decreased productivity of employees with caregiving responsibilities to be at least $11.4 billion per year.

“There has never been a greater need for the citizens of Southern Maryland to join in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease by participating in the Memory Walk®,” said Linda Gottfriend, an Alzheimer’s Association spokesperson.  “Funds raised [by the Memory Walk®] will provide support services to the residents of Southern Maryland living with Alzheimer’s, while also contributing to critically needed research.” The Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk®   is an empowering event that gives participants an opportunity to be Champions by taking action and raising funds to fight Alzheimer’s. In addition to the one mile or three mile walk option, participants will enjoy music, dance, face painting, and area vendors who are sponsoring this event.

Southern Maryland Memory Walk 2011 already has it’s website up and running – ready for you to sign up a team or make a donation at  We hope you’ll consider getting involved in Memory Walk 2011. And if you’d like to participate on our team The Circle of Care Steppers, please contact Lee Ann Stedman or Pam Newton at 410-414-2646.

For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern Maryland please contact Linda Gottfried @ 301-934-5856 or email For more information about Alzheimer’s disease, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website at

For more information about how Circle of Care can assist you with the care of your loved one, please contact us @ 410-257-1900 or 410-414-2646 or email Visit our website at

Introduction to Circle of Care

Caring for an elderly loved one is a growing concern of many middle-aged adults. The stress is increased when the loved one is ill or exhibiting signs of dementia. The fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is our seniors – those over 65. Many families are finding themselves raising children and caring for parents at the same time.

We commend you for making the difficult yet rewarding decision to be the primary caregiver of your loved one. We are aware of the sacrifices you make. Job, spouse, kids, church, home and other activities have left you with a pretty full plate, and now you’ve added one more thing. Although they may not show it, your loved one is aware of the pressure their care has placed on the entire family. Sadly for families that don’t ask for help, this stress can reveal itself in ways that undermine the health and emotional welfare of everyone. Many caregivers feel depressed, trapped and angry. You may argue with other family members, not have time for your spouse, or have given up a cherished routine such as exercise or going to church. The great gift that you are giving to your loved one is at risk when you are not taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally.
When you choose to seek help, you are making a wise decision. According to a November 2009 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP, “23% of family caregivers caring for loved ones for 5 years or more report their health is fair or poor.” In addition, seeking help for some of the tasks that you perform on behalf of your loved one frees up time to enjoy their company, rather than always be doing “for” them.

Circle of Care, LLC is dedicated to helping families in Southern Maryland care for their loved ones in their own homes. Since 2001, we have served over 500 families with non-medical tasks ranging from companionship and errands to full personal care (bathing, toileting, etc.). We acknowledge that while home care may be the ideal choice for your loved one, the dangers of being alone make for a stressful situation for the entire family. A home care company can help you on two levels:

Companion Care/Housekeeping – This level of care provides light housekeeping, meal preparation and other tasks such as laundry, errands, and appointment escort. Your loved one’s companion ensures basic safety and provides friendship. Furthermore, companions can provide sitter services while your loved one is in the hospital or nursing home.

Personal Care – In addition to providing the services listed above, a personal caregiver can provide stand-by supervision of activities, bathing, showering, and toileting assistance. They can provide personal grooming such as dressing, hair care, and simple oral care. If your loved one is bed bound or unable to walk, personal caregivers can turn and position, transfer, and provide wheelchair assistance. All of the services that Circle of Care provides receive ongoing monitoring of needs by a staff nurse and case manager. Services are available for just a few hours a day all the way up to live-in care. While we serve a predominantly senior client base, Circle of Care is also available to provide care to those recovering from surgery or injury.

Our staff and caregivers are carefully selected following reference checks, skills assessments, and a comprehensive criminal background check, including a Motor Vehicles Administration check. Our team of caregivers is compassionate and patient, dedicated and experienced. We’re proud of our exceptional reputation in the Southern Maryland area and would be happy to provide references from current and former clients. Our professional staff will work with you to determine the best plan and schedule to assist your loved one with daily life activities, and to provide you with much-needed support and respite.

Call us today to find out more about how we can help you care for your loved one!

Circle of Care is bonded, insured and duly licensed by the State of Maryland’s Office of Health Care Quality as a Residential Services Agency. Circle of Care is a proud member of the Maryland National Capital Homecare Association.

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Published in: on October 8, 2010 at 4:55 pm  Leave a Comment