Submitted by Annette Morrison, CRS-A/D, M.S., CCSI Case Coordination LLC
Judith took the hand of her two-year-old grandson, Mickey, and walked through the grocer door. She felt a little overwhelmed. What would she need to buy to take care of him? It had been years since she was responsible for a little one and now that her daughter had passed away from a drug overdose, she was reeling from the grief she felt for the loss, the confusion at how her daughter could have considered such bad choices, and her new status: A grandparent raising a grandchild. Mickey was sweet and she loved him unconditionally. He had so much energy and she didn’t know if she could meet his needs. She just kept thinking the basics: food, shelter, safety. After that, she would adapt, she guessed. Both her and Mickey were in survival mode.
Judith was in the diaper isle, trying to figure out which brand of pull-ups to get Mickey when she realized she could not reach the package on the top shelf. Products for babies were so different now than when she was raising her daughter. Luckily, there was a kind-looking lady shopping for baby formula that looked tall—so she asked her if she could reach them. The red headed woman was wearing a mask, but Judith could tell she was kind—her eyes were smiling—and she gladly took the package down for her. Then the woman scanned Judith and her eyes moved quickly to Mickey, who was not so quietly sitting buckled into the cart. “Is this your grandson?” The woman asked in a friendly voice. Judith felt the wave coming but could not stop it. Tears welled up in her eyes, she grew a huge lump in her throat and whispered, “Well, yes but I’m his Momma now, too.” Compassion lit the woman’s eyes and Judith felt she had been somehow touched by a universally divine moment—the woman said, “I am Angie. I am the Caregiver Advisor for CCSI Case Coordination, LLC. I work a lot with Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, just like you. Is there anything else I can help you with? I am actually here shopping for one of my Grandparents.” Judith’s eyes widened in shock at this coincidence and she talked right there, in the aisle at the store for half an hour about what she might need for Mickey. Angie had many very helpful suggestions and gave Judith her business card to call once things settled down a bit if she felt she needed or wanted extra support.
The Caregiver Advisory Program is funded federally through the Older Americans Act, and regionally through the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging and CCSI Case Coordination, LLC. In McLean, Livingston, and Dewitt counties, CCSI Case Coordination is the provider responsible for implementing these programs. A Caregiver Advisor meets with the Caregiver (and their loved one, if needed) to discuss ways to decompress their role. Whether it be through offering a support group to attend, respite services to help the caregiver get away for a while, gap fill funds to purchase special assistive technology, or simply referrals to other programs or agencies who have specialized programs to meet their particular needs—the Caregiver Advisor is your advocate and understands how stressful it is being the one shouldering the responsibility.
At CCSI Case Coordination the Caregiver Advisor oversees several Caregiver Support Groups available to Livingston, DeWitt, and McLean Counties. Support Groups empower caregivers to voice their concerns, share their trials, and celebrate their solutions—with others who either have been in the caregiving role in the past or are currently struggling to juggle and prioritize the complex needs of their family. Support Groups range from helping those dealing with cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, to Grandparents Raising Grandchildren—who have special needs for legal, financial, and developmental assistance. The Caregiver Advisor also helps coach Healthy Aging Classes such as Powerful Tools for Caregivers, A Matter of Balance, and Stress Busters for Caregivers which are offered throughout the year at varying locations to educate and offer tangible, behavior-changing solutions.
Judith called CCSI and asked for Angie two weeks later to try to learn more about the Caregiver Advisory program. She was struggling with Mickey missing his mother, with keeping up with his energy level, and trying to get him some socialization. Angie recommended they get together at a park and talk, that way Mickey could play and get tired out while Angie found out what needs they had so she could try to get them the right help. Judith learned about the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group and was excited to join since Mickey would be able to attend as well. Angie was a font of information—from legal agency suggestions, to grief counseling opportunities, to discussing financial assistance programs. Judith felt like she hit the jackpot when she met Angie. She knew she would be accessing caregiver advisory resources while she raised her grandson—so for the next 16 years at least. It was dizzying to try to think about schooling, technology, legal issues, and all of their needs on her fixed retirement income. Angie was fantastic, though, and advised her to call if she had any needs or questions. Angie was upbeat, encouraging, and positive, exclaiming “That’s what we are here for!” The bonus perk of their meeting was that Mickey fell asleep in the car on the way home. His following 3-hour nap gave her quiet time to do laundry and start on dinner. And take a deep breath. She could do this, with help from CCSI and Angie.
A Caregiver Advisor can meet with you by phone, one-on-one at your home, or any other convenient location to discuss your specific situation and come up with a plan to give you direction and peace of mind. The Caregiver Advisor at CCSI is here to help.
To make your one-on-one appointment with the Caregiver Advisor, contact CCSI Case Coordination LLC at 309-661-6400. We are located at 3601 G.E. Road, Suite 2, Bloomington, IL 61704. Services have no cost, but donations are always graciously accepted. No one is ever denied assistance based on the inability to pay. Funding is provided through ECIAAA and IDOA.
For additional informative and inspirational articles, visit 50 Plus News and Views Bloomington Normal online edition today.