Commentary: Easterseals salutes caregivers all month

By Nancy Ranalli

What does a caregiver look like? Sometimes, a caregiver looks like Emory, a husband caring for Tish, his wife of 37 years, who has had a debilitating stroke. Or they might look like Carol, a caregiver who is caring for her brother, Steve, who has a disability. Or sometimes, a caregiver might look like Julia, a parent caring for an adult child whose disabilities mean she will never leave the nest, like her daughter, Emily.

Sometimes, becoming a caregiver is expected. We all know that our parents are going to age. Other times, life throws a curveball, and people are faced with a situation that they hadn’t anticipated, like in the case of Donna, a grandmother caring for her grandson, Brayden.

Caregivers come in many forms and fill many roles.

November is National Family Caregivers Month. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are more than 53 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. One of the greatest needs of these caregivers is information about services and programs in their community that may be helpful to them as a caregiver for children or for adults with disabilities, chronic or terminal illness or for the elderly.

Easterseals, like many organizations, has had to make many adjustments to adapt to life during COVID-19 and that includes using innovative ways to meet the needs of the families it serves. Easterseals’ Community Outreach Program (COP) has risen to the occasion to help caregivers navigate through these uncharted times.

The COP staff has been checking in with families and offering guidance. Their case managers have been providing necessary resources to caregivers, including a COVID-19-specific resource page. Caregiver support groups and monthly workshops continue to be offered, only now via a virtual platform, so caregivers can continue to connect. November’s workshop features a discussion about adaptive equipment (assistive technology) that may offer solutions to gift giving for anyone on your list with a disability or aging condition.

Serving caregivers, like Karen and Anthony, who are raising their two grandsons, is part of Easterseals’ mission and that holds true throughout the pandemic. As they can attest, caregiving is rewarding but can be an exhausting job, especially when the caregiver does not get time to recharge. Respite is an option through Easterseals’ Respite Programs, which provide funds to support family caregivers providing care to a person of any age or disability, to take a temporary break from caregiving, and applications are now being accepted.

If you or someone you know could benefit from Easterseals’ caregiver services, please contact Easterseals Caregiver Resource Center at 302-221-2087 or resources@esdel.org.

Easterseals is known for innovative services, and, while that has certainly been tested during the pandemic, one thing remains clear: Easterseals is there for family caregivers in all kinds of circumstances and will be for years to come.

Nancy Ranalli is the director of community outreach and assistive technology for Easterseals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore.