Robin Hood Redux: MLRC CARE Conference 2015: Workshops

This is the third (and final) in a series of three posts.
1st post in this series: Robin Hood Redux: MLRC Care Conference 2015: About
2nd post in this series: Robin Hood Redux: MLRC Care Conference 2015: Morning

80% of long-term-care services in the USA are provided by (often unpaid) family caregivers. Many in this population do not have access to the latest and greatest conference presentations due to barriers financial, geographical, physical, or otherwise. As part of my spiritual practice, social justice activism, and personal healing, after conferences, I write an edited summary of my best experiences and learnings for people who did not attend. Let there be light!

Moving forward with a listening heart,
vision, inquiry, and action,
~ Mary

Note: Please e-mail me with any questions or clarifications. Thank you.

Conference Workshops & Resources Take-Aways

Workshops, Session One: “Respite Matchmaking: Tips for Finding, Hiring, and Keeping Respite Support” (11:30am)
Presenters included: Barbara Donati, Merle Edwards Orr, Elenore Parker, and Linda Ungerleider.

Elenore Parker, the founder and president of Rewarding Work (visit:, spoke about the online PCA Directory they have created in seven states, that allows caregivers to sort by geography (and other qualifiers) through updated lists of care workers who are available for hire. She recommended that families ask for two professional references, be sure to check the references, and listen to what references have to say. A CORY background check is free when requested by a family on behalf of a person with a disability (or over 60).

Points made by panel members included:
Hiring Care Workers Directly (not through a PCA Agency)

  • You may need to think of yourself as an employer if you hire a care worker directly (not through an agency), and the worker is doing more than friendly babysitting/companionship, but rather specific work based on your asks (wake, dress, ambulate/transfer, toilet, medicines, meals, etc.).
  • If you are an employer, you are required to pay minimum wage to care workers and pay overtime (over 40 hours).
  • Employers need an Employer Identification Number.
  • To keep track of direct care worker payments, taxes, insurance, you may consider a payroll service.

Hiring Care Workers Through a PCA Agency
“If you hire though an agency, you are clean (in terms of liability, workers comp,etc.),” said Dr. Merle Edwards Orr, meaning the care worker is usually protected through the insurance and bonding program required by an agency for employment.

Note: Based on my personal experience hiring care workers through agencies, it is always best to ask questions to confirm that workers have been background-checked, have received appropriate training (based on the care-receiver’s needs), and are “insured and bonded.”

Introducing a New Care Worker to a Loved One
A few tips were offered about how to ease the introduction of a new care provider to the care recipient:

  • Consider a 1-hour introduction, meet-and-greet.
  • Consider an age-appropriate companion.
  • Consider cultural and faith/spiritual preferences.

Networking at Lunch (12:45pm)
For lunch, I sat with an Indian couple who came to the USA over thirty years ago. They have a thirty-year-old son with a disability who lives at home, who also has meaningful work outside of the home. We chatted about my work, their work (software technology and nursing), and our hobbies, including enjoying creating gardens.

Workshops, Session Two: “Money Matters: Volunteer Options for Respite” (2:00pm)
Presenters included: Barbara Donati, Linda Ungerleider, and Marylouise Gamache

Linda Ungerleider presented on the topic of the REST (Respite, Education and Support Tools) Program, a training program (based in Illinois, USA), that offers two programs: Train the Trainer and Train the Volunteer Caregiver. Visit the REST program website, to learn more about offerings in your state (USA) or internationally. If based in Massachusetts USA, and interested in being a volunteer respite worker, there are openings now to take the training – email me for Linda’s contact info.

Barbara Donati presented on a model in development, “The Respite Project,” that connects families with a community agency and college students.

Marylouise Gamache, director of the Massachusetts Aging and Disability Resource Consortium (ADRC) network, shared how to get in touch with local state (USA) government supports. Ask your local Council on Aging Office for information about “Options Counselors,” “SHINE Counselors,” and your area’s “ADRC Coordinator” (USA). The ADRC serves people regardless of age, income, or disability.

An elderly workshop participant caring for an adult daughter with advanced MS, asked about getting help with financial paperwork (piling up, and managing ongoing). The presenters suggested contacting Disease Specific Organizations (i.e. MS Society, Alzheimer’s Association, etc.) for help, as well as local state (USA) government supports through the Aging and Disability Resource Consortium network, specifically “Options Counselors.” Ask about these resources at your local Council on Aging Office, or call the Executive Office of Elder Affairs at your state house.

A Council on Aging representative confirmed that the Council on Aging serves people age 50+ (“junior seniors”).

The presenters recommended taking the Powerful Tools for Caregivers course (ask about course availability at your local Council on Aging Office).

Lastly, they shared that the Mass Lifespan Respite Coalition is one of many state coalitions throughout the country. If you need information about how to get respite and how to pay for it, contact your state’s respite coalition (learn more about which states have a coalition through the ARCH National Respite Network).

Conference Closing, Evaluation, and Door Prizes (3:00pm)
Conference evaluations and nametags were returned for a chance to win one of several fun and helpful door prizes, including:

Senior Smart Puzzles

Don’t Give Up on Me! Supporting Aging Parents Successfully, by Jan Simpson

Live A Flourishing Life, by Rita Schiano

Family Caregiving in the New Normal, edited by Joseph Gaugler and Robert L. Kane

Exhibitors (edited list)
Home Healthsmith

Rewarding Work Services

SOAR 55 Caregiver Coach Program

Conference Sponsors
Advocates, Inc.

Department of Developmental Services

Executive Office of Elder Affairs/Mass. Family Caregiver Support Program

Horace Mann Educational Associates

Mass. Developmental Disabilities Council

Mass. Rehabilitation Commission

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