Community Spotlight: Caregivers Community Network
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Caregivers Community Network is a program that allows JMU students to offer respite to caregivers and spend quality time with older adults in their community.
The program was created about 20 years ago after a study found that the greatest need of local caregivers was respite. The Valley Program for Aging Services partnered with James Madison University to help meet that growing need.
“The aging population is increasing, and also, we’re keenly aware that more and more people are opting to take care of their loved ones in their homes, so there are more and more caregivers,” Kathy Guisewite, CCN Coordinator, said.
Providing respite allows caregivers to take a break, so they can continue giving their best care. It also creates new opportunities for those receiving care.
“Have their spirits lifted, and their mind stimulated, engage in fun conversations with students and offer their expertise in a lot of different areas,” Guisewite said.
The students gain a lot from these experiences, too.
“It’s not only a service-learning opportunity for them, but it informs them about different generations, it helps break down stereotypes, it informs what they’re learning in the classroom in a very tangible way,” Guisewite said.
Activities range from cooking, to taking walks to creating webinars. Students are able to cater to whatever interests the family has.
Fritz Rosebrook and Louise Temple-Rosebrook have been participating in the program for about five years.
Louise is a full-time professor at JMU, so she wanted to be able to offer some socialization for Fritz when she’s not home.
“It’s always enjoyable for me to meet with younger people, and I’ve been involved in one way or another in university life a long, long time,” Fritz said.
Students come to their house twice a week for about an hour and a half or so.
“Woodworking is one of his big deals, so I continue to have the students, when they come, have him take them around the house and show all of the things that he has done,” Louise said.
Fritz said he likes building relationships with students, whether its by visiting downtown, making art or music, or just talking.
“Asking him about his life, sharing their stories with him, I think has been the most fun. You agree with that? Yes. Fritz loves people, and they love him. I’ve never known a single person who didn’t like him a lot,” Louise said.
However, that quality time looked a bit different through the pandemic.
“We had to pull out of family homes and go virtual. That has actually been a wonderful learning experience. Some families really loved the virtual experience. We also created a care package program,” Guisewite said.
Students would deliver care packages once a week and make phone calls with the families, but everyone is looking forward to continuing making those interpersonal connections inside the home.
“A lot of students tell me that their grandparents live far away, and sometimes this feels like visiting grandparents. You come in, you play with the family dog, you bake cookies,” Guisewite said.
“We’ve really enjoyed some of the relationships we’ve developed. It’s a great experience. It’s a good program,” Fritz added.
Valley Program for Aging Services has a ton of events and services to offer. Next month, VPAS will be working with Generations Crossing for a two-day training on dealing dementia for caregivers.
You can find all of the latest on vpas.info. You can also learn how to get involved in the Caregivers Community Network Program. Any student at JMU can sign up for the course which is offered each semester.
Families must fill out an application.
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