Music and art run in Rodney Smith’s blood. He is an artist at heart and while he loves to paint and sketch in his free time, he also finds some satisfaction doing creative work for the music industry. Most recently, he designed an album cover for his cousin Ronnie Williams, former background singer of LaFace Records who is now branching out on his own as a solo artist.
But while music and art may be two of his passions in life, caregiving is now his life’s work. And he wants to make sure caregivers like him realize that they are not alone, that he knows what they go through daily, and that he is here to help them.
Rodney is part of the Center for Caregiver Advancement’s group of interns who help enroll IHSS providers in CCA’s caregiver training programs. Last year, he participated in CCA’s 10-week IHSS+ Alzheimer’s course, which provides specialized training for caregivers caring for somebody showing signs of Alzheimer’s and related dementia.
“My wife and I took care of her grandparents who had Alzheimer’s, so I thought I knew everything already,” Rodney recalls. “But I was so wrong! I learned a lot. I learned more than I thought I would.”
One of the lessons from the IHSS+ training that he now shares with other IHSS providers is medication adherence. “That was one of the things that I never knew … that, you know, the provider cannot touch and literally give the recipient the medication they need, they have to put it in something and let them take it themselves,” he says.
That unexpected – but very much welcome – gain in knowledge and skills is why Rodney values his work with CCA as an intern with the field team. He calls IHSS providers and shares with them information about the training program, with the goal of enrolling them in one of the free 10-week sessions.
“It’s something that is so positive and inspirational, to be able to give caregivers the opportunity to increase their knowledge and skills so they can help their loved ones, the people they care for,” he says.
As his wife’s caregiver now, Rodney understands the challenges that caregivers go through. That insider knowledge helps him connect with IHSS providers who are hesitant about taking the multi-week training.
“Being a caregiver is tedious because this is a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week job. This is work. And sometimes, caregivers have to take a little time for themselves,” Rodney says. “So when I speak with providers, I let them know that, ‘Hey, I understand what you go through daily. And all we’re here to do is make sure that you have what you need to help make your work a bit less stressful.’”
Just like with his art, Rodney said that being able to help fellow caregivers is the greatest feeling. “I’m tickled about every day that I’m here to be able to share love and to also share knowledge.”