0n Wednesday, November 12, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with SRPMIC Senior Services, held the annual Family Caregivers Conference at the Talking Stick Resort. The conference was held to provide caregivers with valuable resources and educational information to help benefit Community families.
.“[When] we talk about caregivers and him-dag (way of life), this room is a huge representation of that way of life. When we talk about O’odham and Piipaash, we talk about how historically and traditionally our families [helped] each other [and how the] Community supported and nurtured when it was needed,” said Roberta Carlos, director of senior services, during her welcome address.
“For you as [caregivers]—whether you’re caring for an elder, [someone with a disability], or maybe you’re a grandparent to a child—that’s what we do and who we are [as O’odham and Piipaash]. You are carrying on our traditions; you are to be celebrated, your efforts are to be celebrated,” added Carlos.
As the conference began, Ann McCommas, director of AIM Motivational Seminars and author of A Busy Woman’s Guide to Empowering Time, Mind, Body and Spirit, held a session titled “Renewing the Heart of the Caregiver,” in which all of those in attendance participated in group activities and shared their personal stories.
Community members were given the opportunity to speak about some of the major challenges and blessings they experience as caregivers.
• Time (balancing schedules)
• The toll it takes on one’s body
• When a child asks, “Why can’t I be with my parent?”
• Elders not following doctors’ orders (medication, exercise, diet, etc.)
• Having no caregiving experience
• Spending quality time with elders before their passing
• Making positive healthy changes
• Grandchildren weren’t placed in the foster care system
• Help grandchildren overcome obstacles
• Building memories
“The hardest word as a caregiver is saying ‘no,’” said McCommas. “But we deserve time to ourselves and deserve to get what we want, too. Saying no means saying yes to yourself.”
In one activity, the attendees wrote down their personal needs and wants. Some examples that were shared with the room were laughing more, taking medication as directed and complimenting oneself. Each individual also set boundaries; some examples given were, asking for a 24-hour notice from parents, asking parents to ask and not tell grandparents what to do, caregivers responding with “let me think about it,” and better time-management skills.
The conference continued with a video featuring some caregivers from SRPMIC, followed by breakout sessions. Session topics included legal issues that caregivers may face or need to know, being prepared for the unexpected, stress management, healthy eating and positive parenting. During these sessions, participants were able to speak one-on-one with the instructors and ask for suggestions. Informational packets and brochures were also handed out for reference purposes.
“They’ve had different topics than they’ve had in the past. I’m getting more out of [this conference],” said Community member Lonnie Jim, a part-time caregiver.
“[This conference] renews your education and [helps you see] that [while] maybe you thought you had it bad, some people have it worse,” said Community member Janet Andrews, a part-time caregiver. “It’s so different from how we grew up. Times are changing.”
“This is the first caregiver conference that I’ve been to. It’s more of a learning experience,” said LaBerta Collins, a Community member and also a part-time caregiver. “It’s good to know that I’m not the only one in this situation; there are others in the same situation as me. It’s also good to know that we are blessed with the tribal financial means to learn. More people should take advantage of [these conferences] and learn. I want my grandchildren to have good memories of their grandparents. It’s a good bonding stage.”
“This conference was made possible because of the work that you do as caregivers. Today we come together to celebrate and acknowledge you. We thank you for the work that you do [as caregivers],” said Carlos.
The SRPMIC Family Caregiver Support Program is intended to “provide a multifaceted system of support services for family caregivers.” For more information about this program or about the annual Family Caregivers Conference, call Mary Weston at (480) 362-7983.