ICS joined Caregivers Outreach Ministry Empowerment (C.O.M.E.) this past Saturday at the organization’s tenth annual Caregivers Award Luncheon.
C.O.M.E. is the brainchild of Diane Cooper, pictured here, who has spent the last decade working to “transform the role of family caregivers from one of crisis to one of knowledge, confidence and authority.”
The Ministry brings together family caregivers and care recipients to discuss their short- and long-term concerns, while educating them about available resources. The family members are helped to write a plan of action together to reinforce and provide a reference for decisions they arrive at. Caregivers are also encouraged to find ways to take care of themselves to avoid burnout.
The Caregivers Ministry, which is based in the Bronx, collaborates with AARP in Co-op City to offer an intergenerational summer program where high school age students teach seniors computer skills. Other services include check-in phone calls, a newsletter, and a website that provides information and resources for family caregivers looking for additional support. The Ministry also provides consultation for organizations that want to support employees who are taking care of an ill or aging family member, or one with a disability.
The Caregivers Awards Luncheon, which ICS cosponsors, takes place each year during National Family Caregivers Month. The occasion is not just a reminder of the value of what family caregivers do day after day, year after year; it’s a joyous celebration of love. Saturday, as the caregivers being honored entered the ballroom in a procession – some alone, many with the loved ones they care for – the import of this recognition was written all over their faces – they were beaming.
Young People Caring for Family Members
One of the very special things about the Ministry is its focus on young people. While the organization supports family caregivers of all ages, C.O.M.E. also actively reaches out to the many children and teens in New York City who are taking care of family members – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, even siblings, who may have disabilities, chronic health problems, or both. This outreach is so important because while there is a growing awareness about the stress and isolation that can accompany caregiving for adults, many young people experience those very same things but their struggles are largely hidden.
Just imagine how lonely and isolating it may be for a young person whose classmates are hanging out and socializing after school and on the weekends, to instead be home providing care to a loved one. That is a way more common situation than most of us would imagine.
C.O.M.E.’s SHARKS Program (Students Helping and Assisting Relatives with Knowledge and Skills) works with New York City schools to identify girls and boys in the 6th through 12th grades who are juggling the roles of student and caregiver. What the Ministry gives these young people is not only information and resources – it gives them each other – gathering them together each month for mutual support and friendship – while also providing much-needed respite.
About two dozen of the youth caregivers who C.O.M.E. supports were present at Saturday’s event. Watching them enjoy themselves was a highlight of the afternoon.