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As the population of older adults continues to grow, it is placing ever greater demands on the family caregivers who supply so much of the support that is vital to their loved ones’ care.
Photo courtesy SOAR 55
SOAR (Service Opportunities After Reaching) 55 is pitching in to help support caregivers in MetroWest, launching a new Caregiver Coach Program.
“It was in response to the growing number of caregivers,” said SOAR 55 Senior Director Jan Latorre-Stiller. “We’re in business to meet community needs and this was something we felt we could help with.”
The program started this past fall, with an initial group of six volunteers beginning their training. SOAR 55 is not seeking more coaches at this time, instead focusing on making sure the program is working as hoped before expanding. “It’s a pilot program,” said Latorre-Stiller. “We want to go slow.”
SOAR 55 has a process in place to screen volunteers via in-person interviews, reference checks and background checks. Coaches are required to serve a minimum of six months and attend post-placement monthly sessions to discuss challenges, successes and ideas with other coaches, facilitated by a SOAR 55 trainer.
The program is also developing a process to best match caregivers with their volunteer coaches. The organization is also making outreach efforts to let caregivers know about the program, which Latorre-Stiller said is suitable for caregivers who “might prefer 1-on-1 [counseling] rather than going to a group.”
The coaches will meet with caregivers regularly either by phone or in person. It’s expected that those meetings will generally be held once a week, but could be bi-weekly or more often. “We’ll leave it up to the caregiver and the coach, let them develop a relationship,” said Latorre-Stiller.
The coaches, whose training includes participation in the evidence-based Powerful Tools for Caregivers program, will offer social and emotional support to caregivers challenged by the role of overseeing the health care of a loved one.
Latorre-Stiller described this aspect of the coaches’ roles as being a “supportive ear” for the caregivers. Coaches will call upon both their training and their own personal experiences with similar issues to help provide that support.
The program also expects coaches to support caregivers in more practical and pragmatic ways, by helping them connect with established caregiver assistance programs and accessing local resources that will aid in their caregiving role.
Latorre-Stiller noted that the program will serve MetroWest communities, “primarily the towns closer to Boston,” but the coverage area does include Framingham, Natick, Wellesley and Wayland among other MetroWest towns.
To learn more about the program, visit SOAR 55’s website or contact Caregiver Coach Program Manager Debra Mozill at 617-969-5906 x190 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.