VALE — Vicki Higgins, of Vale, knows firsthand how difficult it can be to care for aging people.
Higgins only planned to visit her parents for three weeks. Then her visit turned into a couple of months. Then it became an indeterminate time, because of her parents’ health issues.
Serving as their caregiver became a six-day-a-week position for Higgins. Her mother has died, but she continues to care for her father.
“I had no social life, no friends,” she said.
She has found support and resources through local groups such as Oregon Care Partners and Malheur Council on Aging and Community Services.
Higgins has been a caregiver in facilities and in private homes in her 35 years in the medical field. She said she has found that “taking care of someone else is much easier than family.”
Family dynamics are one of the challenges for caregivers, she said.
“There is a lot more responsibility than anyone suspected,” Higgins said of providing care. “It’s one of those jobs that is unappreciated. The way we take care of the elderly is terrible.
“Caregivers don’t get paid a lot of money — don’t get paid enough for what they deal with,” she continued. “You don’t know how involved it’s going to be until you are in the home and doing the job.”
“I really appreciate Oregon Care Partners,” Higgins said.
Oregon Care Partners LLC is a consortium of lead organizations working closely with older adults, including the Alzheimer’s Association, Service Employees International Union Local 503, Oregon Health Care Association, plus a wide array of affiliated health-care organizations and collaborating experts.
Oregon Care Partners provides a variety of classes and other information primarily focusing about caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
These classes can be taken online or on site as they are presented around the state, and are provided at no cost to caregivers.
Challenging behaviors in the non-dementia adult population was the focus of classes at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center-Ontario Thursday. A four-hour course will be offered again Friday.
Angela Livas, a caregiver and caregiver specialist at Malheur Council on Aging and Community Services, is the facilitator for Oregon Care Partners’ Family Caregiver Support program.
“I give them information and support [and] update them on training,” Livas said.
She has taken several of the Oregon Care Partners classes.
“Access to training is very important,” Livas said.
She has been a caregiver for different members of her family for about 15 years, starting with her grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s. Livas handled the finances, medical needs and the process of getting her grandmother into a care center.
She has also been a caregiver for some great-nieces and cares for a son who suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident.
“There is a wide variety of caregiving,” Livas said. “Family caregivers do the same thing as professional caregivers, but without resources.”
In her role as caregiver, Livas faces many challenges. One of the biggest, she said, is “taking time for myself or having enough energy.”
Services provided by Council on Aging’s Family Caregiver Support program include information, assistance in gaining access to services, individual counseling, respite care to enable caregivers to be temporarily relieved of their duties to take care of their own needs, and supplemental services.