Identifying oneself as a caregiver presents challenges for each of us. We often identify as our role or relation to others: a spouse, a sibling, friend or a neighbor, rather than call ourselves a caregiver. But it is important to recognize, as a caregiver, you are not alone.
The CaringTogetherLompoc Campaign studies have found 1 in 6 people in Lompoc are caregivers, providing unpaid support to a friend or family member. Many people find they are unprepared when taking on this role and are unsure of the next steps. An important first step is identifying yourself as a caregiver and accepting that the role you play in another’s life is both vital and necessary.
A next step could be identifying your support system -- including family, friends, professionals and community members, who all participate in the delivery of care. Identifying the care receiver’s existing support system provides caregivers with very clear information about who they can ask for assistance, how frequently and the types of support available.
This also gives the caregiver an opportunity to identify gaps in care. This exercise in helping caregivers identify their support system is called Care Mapping. Lompoc Valley Medical Center has joined the Atlas of Caregiving project in its work to help support caregivers and give them tools to continue doing the complex job of being a caregiver. The Atlas of Care project is working to make the “invisible work” of caregiving visible to the world. The work of a caregiver is often unrecognized as a significant contributor in the maintenance of another person’s health because there is no measure to determine what percentage of care is actually being provided by the caregiver.
The Atlas of Care project aims to change that awareness.
In order to understand if a new program or product will work for care receivers, we must also understand the daily lives of the individuals who deliver daily care. The Atlas of Care project sought out collaborative relationships with agencies who support caregivers as well as care receivers. They led care mapping sessions around Santa Barbara County with local agencies in order to meet caregivers and teach them how to create their own Care Map. This has generally been done in small groups, encouraging caregivers to learn from each other through their experiences. The outcome gives a caregiver a very clear communication tool, identifying their support system and opportunities for them to ask for support in areas not well covered.
The goal is to create awareness of the impact caregivers have in our society. If you are interested in creating your own CareMap, please contact the Lompoc Valley Medical Center: Family Caregiver Support Network to schedule an appointment with our Support Coordinator. The Support Coordinator can help you develop your own CareMap and provide supportive services to caregivers who find gaps care.