HYANNIS — Donna White, a registered nurse, led 63 caregivers through a deep breathing exercise, to demonstrate how taking some time off to breathe is an important self-care strategy.

White, a master trainer with the state Department of Mental Health, highlighted the issue of compassion fatigue and focused on essential self-care strategies during a Thursday afternoon session at a caregiver lunch and expo hosted by Elder Services of Cape Cod & Islands at the Cape Codder Resort & Spa

People who have been taking care of close family members for years and new caregivers who started just six months ago, all voiced the same concerns: how to deal with the stress and emotions, all the while being a patient and competent caregiver. 

The session was intended to help participants learn how to recognize signs of compassion fatigue in themselves and strategies to relieve and prevent the moral distress that can accompany it.

"Caregivers need to put themselves first in order to take better care of others," White said.

A lot of the caregivers who reach out to Elder Services of Cape Cod just want to know about what supports and services are out there.

"They ask for information and they don’t always know where to start,” said Laura Cheesman, manager of the Family Caregiver Support Program at Elder Services of Cape Cod. 

“We encourage them to be accepting of these services, which is not an easy thing for caregivers to do,” she said. 

Each town on Cape Cod and the Islands has a Council on Aging or a Senior Center available to meet the needs of the town's senior population. The centers can be the first stop for caregivers. 

There are specific caregiver support programs and resources available as well on Cape Cod. 

Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands

Founded in 1972, Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands is a nonprofit that offers caregiver in-home support services, such as caregiver training, legal services referrals, respite, support groups, in-home assessment, evidence-based programs, nutrition services and financial services, based on caregiver needs. 

The Family Caregiver Support Program provides weekly caregiver support groups both in person and virtually, as well as monthly programs. Support is delivered either over the phone or by an in-home or office visit, depending on the preference of the caregiver.

For more information: escci.org/

Cape Cod & Islands Regional SHINE Program

The SHINE Program, since 1985 has provided free Medicare counseling services for new and current Medicare beneficiaries. SHINE is administered by the state Executive Office of Elder Affairs, funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the State Insurance Assistance Program and Barnstable County. Every town Council on Aging also has SHINE counselors available.

SHINE counselors can help caregivers navigate the health insurance system and can help people with limited resources enroll in programs that help pay health insurance costs. 

For more information: www.capecod.gov/departments/human-services/initiatives/shine/

Oasis provides independent assessments, social opportunities in Brewster

Based in Brewster, Oasis provides independent assessments, confidential assistance, opportunities for adaptive classes, workshops, private care from trusted services, and volunteers through a network of resources.

They also offer services such as respite stays, daily member activities, social coffee hour, other recreational activities and a social club where clients can come interact with each other or spend some time with activities while the caregiver takes a break. 

Oasis offers day programs as well as overnight or weekly stays. 

For more information: oasisbrewster.org/

Alzheimer’s Family Support Center

On Cape Cod, there are an estimated 11,000 to 13,000 people living with Alzheimer's and other dementia-related diseases, according to the Alzheimer’s Family Support Center

The center offers free services and programs to people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related illnesses on the Cape. Located primarily in Brewster, the center opened a new location in 2022 at the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis

The center's services are free and include consultations, memory screenings, telephone support, caregiver education sessions, bereavement services and a host of support groups. 

For more information: www.alzfamilysupport.org/

Sight Loss Services Cape and Islands

Sight Loss Services is a nonprofit providing peer support, information and referrals, education, independence training, and adaptive aids to people who are learning to cope and function safely and independently with the loss of sight.

It’s an organization of, and for people who are blind, visually impaired and/or have progressive eye disease. 

For more information: sightloss.org/

Rasheek Tabassum Mujib writes about healthcare and education. Reach her at [email protected].

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