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North Shore Area Partners: Caring for Caregivers

I think I’m safe in saying we’ve all heard, in the event of a plane going down, we are to put our oxygen masks on before helping others with theirs. We have also heard that we can help others better if we are taking care of ourselves, which makes a lot of sense. However, using this as an example as a perfect metaphor for self-care is a mistake. We shouldn’t be waiting for emergency situations to consider self-care.

Any of us, and likely many of us, will be a caregiver to an older loved one or loved ones in our lifetime. The majority of care-giving that is done for older adults is by in-formal caregivers, some who don’t consider themselves caregivers at all. “It’s interesting that a lot of people in a caregiver role don’t identify themselves as caregivers,” said Ericka Blanchard, a licensed social worker who works for North Shore Area Partners (NSAP). She often hears statements like “I’m just being a good daughter” or “I’m just helping out my neighbor.”

Erika and her family are relatively new to Silver Bay. When a former social worker retired at NSAP, she was excited to take on the role. “I love the opportunity to work in the community where I live. It’s such a small close-knit community, so it’s really a privilege to be able to work in it,” she said. “It gives you a really strong sense of community.”

NSAP’s mission is to support older adults in the community so they can continue to live at home as long as possible. The Minnesota Department of Human Services’ CareGiver Support Grant is allowing the organization to integrate caregiver support into all of NSAP’s programming and expand services provided.

“It’s really important that we can give support to caregivers,” Lise Abazs, of Silver Bay, recognized. Lise started as a bookkeeper at NSAP in 2015. Her parents were aging but lived outside of the area, so she applied thinking “I’ll do what I can for my community.” She moved into leadership roles and eventually became executive director of NSAP. “It’s important and meaningful work,” she said.

NSAP has been offering a caregiver sup-port group that meets at NSAP in Silver Bay the 2nd Thursday of every month. As it can be difficult for caregivers to find time to at-tend the group, the organization is trying to increase locations and the times the groups are held to provide more options. Adding a virtual option should provide more opportunities, as well. The team is excited to offer the support group in Finland starting in November.

In addition to the group offered on the 2nd Thursdays of the month, NSAP will offer in-person and virtual sessions on the 1st Wednesdays of the month at 10:30 AM and 7 PM. In Finland, at the Baptism River Com-munity Church, the support group will be held on the 2nd Wednesdays of the month from 1-2. The Care Connections in Finland session is planned in conjunction with the Senior Meal offered at the location, which will occur directly after the support group meets. Care Connections is a unified approach that Lise says will bring people together to “be together and have fun together.”

In addition to the offerings of caregiver support groups, Ericka is a certified Care Giver Consultant who can work with individuals on a 1:1 basis to determine needs, goals, and to provide resources. She has the ability to meet caregivers in their home if they are unable to come into the office. She enjoys her work. “It’s humbling to be able to help support people as they are creating and providing services for people that they care so much about and to be able to help them to continue to live out the value that they have.”

The grant received by NSAP allows for these services to be offered at no charge. NSAP also works together with other local organizations. NSAP’s area is the Northern North Shore. Two Harbors’ Community Partners offers similar programming, as well as Care Partners of Cook County. Cook County’s organization is offering Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes on Wednesdays from 10-11:30 a.m. from Oct. 11 – Nov. 15.

To learn more about NSAP’s Caregiver Support Groups and programs, reach out to Ericka Blanchard at ericka@nsapartners.org or call 218-353-1464.

Community Partners in Two Harbors can be reached at 218-834-8024. Care Partners of Cook County can be reached at 218-387-2524.

Thank you to Lise and Ericka for their time and dedication to serving the community.

Thank you, also, to all the caregivers out there for all you do. Take good care of yourselves!

Feel free to reach out to sarahwritesnsj@yahoo.com  with any news we should news about!

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