Caregiver leans over on couch next to older woman.

It’s been two arduous years of living in a global pandemic. Many caregivers have received recognition for stepping up in these trying times. One group, however — informal caregivers — largely has gone unrecognized. 

The Caregiver Support Initiative, which offers free caregiver support services to those who care for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in Upstate New York, understands intimately the struggles these caregivers face. Kristen Osterhoudt, regional coordinator for education and training services at the initiative, strives to ensure that they feel supported and less isolated in situations at high risk for burnout. To help alleviate their stress, she offers support workshops.

“It means the world to me to know that I’m helping, even if it’s just one person or one family, that we’re making a difference for them,” Osterhoudt told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. “Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of ‘thank you’ cards. It’s good to know they have someone they can talk to when they’re having a difficult time.”

On National Caregivers Day, which took place on Feb. 18, the Caregiver Support Initiative offered a Valentine’s Day party to give caregivers the much-needed opportunity to leave the house, meet one another and socialize. 

Virtual events such as Memory Cafés allow caregivers of those suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia an opportunity to gather together. In this space, they are able to enjoy activities like arts and crafts or a social hour with refreshments and good conversation. Caregivers have the option to participate either virtually or in-person, depending on comfort level and preferences. 

“People are really missing that social connection, especially in the COVID-19 pandemic,” Osterhoudt said. “This gives them a chance to take a night off, get out of the house and do something fun.”

Editor’s note: Home Sweet Home is a feature appearing Mondays in McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The story focuses on a heartwarming, entertaining or quirky happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Caroline Szachnowski at [email protected].