Carol’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 9 years ago now. So Carol left Texas where her 2 adult children still live to come and care for her mother in Michigan.
“I think often some of the bigger decisions I have made in my life if I had known how hard they would be I may not have done them.”
Despite the challenges, Carol is glad to be able to be there for her mother as a caregiver.
“The hardest thing was when I was uncharitable because I was tired and stressed. My mom didn’t deserve that. There was guilt with that but we cannot be perfect. Thankfully I have a network to support us.”
Carol’s mother is thriving with Mercy Health's support since her doctors come to her for things like physical therapy. She believes the hardest part is making sure that people are aware of the resources and support that are available to them.
Now at 62 she is no longer the primary caregiver for her mother but shares the responsibilities with her siblings.
Caregiving for the Community At Large
When moving to Michigan she quickly proved to not only be a caregiver for her mother but a person who thrives in organizations that give back to others. Thus it is no surprise that she has been the CFO for Catholic Charities of West Michigan for 6 years now helping them with financial work considering her background in finance.
In a drive to do something outside finance, she took up the mantle as the AmeriCorps Seniors Director. There she coordinates 106 volunteers ages 65 and older who volunteer for programs such as seniors helping seniors through Senior Companions and mentor programs like Foster Grandparents where volunteers go into preschools through middle schools to help students with special learning needs and emotional barriers.
Carol got an email on a Friday about how Michigan Health and Human Services had set up a partnership with GetSetup to offer free learning opportunities to older adults across the state.
Taking Advantage of Learning and Socialization Opportunities
Keen to learn she signed up for a class on Monday and within a week and a half she had already taken 4-5 classes.
“They are so easy. You just pop in for an hour and it is a really kind and forgiving learning environment with patient instructors. I think it is a game-changer.”
Carol has enjoyed the social aspects of the classes as well since with everything going on she has let social networking go on in the background of her professional life. She sees this as a simple way to engage with minimal time commitment.
“A lot of people are like me - 62 and caring for their family members. I hope the word gets out about these resources. You can almost always carve out an hour for some social time, even if you start a class and have to go, you are better off for having been there a short time.”
Carol has been wanting to create a youtube channel - Grannies Gone Virtual to support students run by her volunteers who normally would be working with students in schools but can’t because of the pandemic.
“It is really rough on these folks. Working in schools was a joy and they felt they made a difference and they did! The students see them in the store and its Grandma Mimi or whoever. It’s a win-win situation.”
However, both the students and the volunteers are missing this interaction. Carol and her volunteers have a pen pal program going, but want to see the volunteers reading books on Youtube that students can listen to and watch.
“I want the volunteers to do this! Many get smartphones and iPads but they don’t know how to use them or get through the initial barrier. But, it is just a gap that can be filled. That’s why this program with GetSetUp is so incredible it gives them a chance to surpass the gap. I believe they can use it to engage.”
Enjoying Free Learning Opportunities With Friends
She has already inspired 5 of her volunteers to sign up for New Member Orientation to get acquainted with the site.
The partnership between GetSetUp and Michigan is initially for 6 months. This is plenty of time to really learn something and just in time for the cold Michigan winters.
“It is perfect with winter coming. People will be hunkered down in their house and want something to do beside binge watching shows.”
Carol’s drive to start the Youtube channel means she has already taken GetSetUp’s Youtube: Record & Post Videos class - not once but twice.
“I felt I missed a click so took it again. It’s just nice, because you can learn in increments and stay with the same material until you feel like you master it. Plus people in the class are treasures. They are characters and individuals. It is just heartwarming that we are reaching out and we are tapping into this resource. Now we are going to have the skills to stay a part of our communities be that families, churches, or others.”
She has also taken the New Member Orientation and a Getting Started with Zoom class. She signed up for the Meditation Techniques - What, Why & How They Can Help Improve Wellbeing but plans to reschedule to take it as something came up and she had to cancel.
She is proud of her state of Michigan. She thinks it is really taking an innovative step forward.
“This is a real game changer. America and American seniors especially have been struggling with this technology and knowing we needed to cross over and not knowing how. I was worried thinking I had to build my own program, but this I can do. This is already here. It’s simple. It’s a patient learning environment. Thanks to the state of Michigan. This is a real gift to the community!”