At her IHSS+ training graduation event last December, caregiver Michelle Galloway Blanco used a garden analogy to illustrate how she and her fellow caregivers flourished together throughout the course of their training. “We’re all roses, and in this group, we bloomed,” she told the group. “Roses keep growing forever, and they keep growing as long as you water them, right? So that’s what we do – we’re watering each other, we’re bringing each other up.”
In the 10 weeks they attended class together, the caregivers empowered one another, learned from each other’s experiences, and grew together.
The Center for Caregiver Advancement’s (CCA) training programs for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) providers teach caregivers, such as Michelle and thousands of others, hands-on skills and situational knowledge that are proven to produce remarkable outcomes in their jobs. Results from post-training surveys report that 98 percent of program participants were either satisfied or very satisfied with the training they received. Not only do these programs enhance and expand participants’ skills, they also provide a platform to connect with other caregivers.
The Fringe Benefit
In Michelle’s speech, she shared how she and her classmates were “bringing each other up.” Fellow caregiver Jennifer Ballesteros referred to this as a “fringe benefit” of her participation in the training.
Feelings of isolation and depression are not uncommon for caregivers. This was a challenge that Jennifer noticed especially at the beginning of her caregiving career. “There’s no one to call, there’s no one to bounce back ideas or even reach out to,” Jennifer said.
Most caregivers don’t have a support system, unlike other professions that typically involve working with a boss and colleagues. “When you’re dealing with caring for people, even if it’s your family, you get depressed, you feel singled out. You feel alone,” Michelle said.
The multiweek format of CCA’s courses gives caregivers the time and space to form friendships with one another. This creates a sense of community among the participants, which helps reduce caregiver isolation, loneliness, and depression.
There is a sense of comfort “knowing that there are people out there to help people,” said IHSS provider Beth Wiener.
A Platform to Connect, Share, and Grow
CCA’s training courses are structured to include numerous opportunities for students to interact with one another and share their experiences and ideas. Many participants, including IHSS provider Shawn Sanders, agree that the interactive nature of the training was something they found truly beneficial.
“These courses really helped me with [feeling less isolated]. It allowed me to interact and talk with other caregivers, which was very helpful,” she said. Shawn particularly enjoyed when her class would split into breakout groups on Zoom and discuss specific caregiving situations as part of the lesson.
“The training improved my life because it helped me interact with other people who are caregivers, and allowed me to be able to bounce some of my ideas off of others who are caregiving for other people as well,” Shawn said.
IHSS provider Perri Kendrick said that she and the other women in her class bonded very quickly. “They taught me that I’m not alone. And I’m not doing this by myself,” she said.
Perri recalled missing one class session because her son, for whom she provides care, was in the hospital. She attended a make-up session with a different group. “I felt like it was my regular class because everybody was so engaging, so nice, and so comforting.” Perri described her overall participation in the course as “just the best experience.”
Jennifer, who takes care of her mother, remarked how it was “pretty neat” to meet others who also take care of their aging parents. “[It] helped a lot to feel connected to a community that is doing the same thing that I’m doing, but just maybe in a different setting,” she said.
Michelle enjoyed participating in the class discussions and sharing advice with her classmates. “You don’t feel so lonely when you have people in the same circle dealing with everything that you’re going through. They can give you their opinions and their suggestions just like I did for them,” Michelle said.
At the end of the training, she and some of the caregivers in her class exchanged numbers. They have kept in contact ever since.