In my ministry, I’ve been focused on the needs of caregivers for years—especially helping caregivers find ways to care for themselves. This interest proved to be such a vital part of the lives of people around me that I was open to fresh ways to spread this message. Eventually, I talked with Front Edge Publishing Editor David Crumm about contributing to a nationwide effort to help empower individuals and their caregivers.
And this was even before we all were hit head on by the pandemic sweeping around our world!
The result was a timely book that helps individuals, caregivers, families, friends, congregations and community nonprofits—the entire social fabric of millions of Americans—grapple with the inevitable needs we all will face as we age. We decided to call this particular book—Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging.
As we began our work, we had no idea how timely our book would be!
Now, the pandemic has stretched our social safety net into such a tattered state that I am writing this column about our regional work in the same week that headlines nationwide are mourning the horrifying milestone of 1 million Americans lost to COVID.
So, are you in need for some good news?
After I researched and wrote my chapter for this book, I began to consider using that book as a resource at a regional conference. The more I began to consider such a conference, the more I realized that many kinds of caregivers needed this information!
I mentioned this idea to David and he proposed the idea of adapting a special run of these paperbacks specifically for our area (McMinn County, Tennessee) with an additional section for local resources for both caregivers as well as medical, financial, and elder care planning.
Our church, with the help of the local ecumenical McMinn Ministries, funded the cost of the books so that we were able to give away copies not only to those who attended, but to several local businesses and partnerships who helped make our conference possible.
Initially, we were just going to do a short seminar on helping caregivers prepare for end-of-life discussions. However, as I began to talk to persons in our community, the topics expanded to preparing a will, understanding the legal twists and turns of caregiving, and an emphasis on the resources and support groups that exist for caregivers. What we ended up creating was an all-day event with five speakers and loads of donated resources and materials from all around the county.
Then, COVID revisited our area in the form of the Delta variant. So, plans were put on hold and our conference that was to have taken place in January of 2022 was moved to the (fortunately warmer) April 9th, 2022. Despite the delay, the event was well attended and it turned into a wonderful day for all involved.
The event covered a broad spectrum of topics and needs: from having a demonstration of what a caregiving support group looks like to the topic of how to recognize your own needs as one who gives care (you have to take care of yourself if you want to be able to care for others) as well as dealing with financial issues and concluding with my own presentation on preparing for a funeral and having the “difficult” conversations that kind of planning that entails,
The event was well received. As one attendee wrote, “The more informed I am the better.”
That was the goal. We have resources, we have contacts, and we have support. Sometimes, though, we don’t know where to begin. And, as another attendee wrote, “Education is power!”
It was a small start, to be sure. Yet it was a big step in working to relate to our community to meet a need. It is my hope that this program will develop into a regular, yearly conference. It is also my hope that our church will continue to host that it might be known that this church and its congregation cares for those who give care.
My sincere appreciation to all involved, and many thanks to David Crumm and the great team at Front Edge Publishing for not only having offered me the opportunity to work on such a great project as Now What?—but to also be willing to work with me to make the book even more specific to my community. It provides so much good information and was such a great addition to the materials we provided.
Let me encourage you to consider utilizing this book in your own setting! What a resource, and what a way to help have some of the more difficult conversations that are so easily avoided, but so very necessary.
Again, my thanks to everyone involved in this important work.