Renfrew – The needs of carers can often be overlooked in the hustle and bustle of caring for a loved one and Hospice Renfrew is launching a new series of workshops to help carers learn to care for themselves and offers a group monthly support for caregivers.
“It’s like a form of preventative healthcare,” said Julie Keon, bereavement and bereavement counselor at Hospice Renfrew and the person who gives the workshop series to caregivers. “It’s for caregivers, anyway. This could be a caregiver for a spouse with dementia or a caregiver for someone in a long-term care home.
The caregiver could be caring for a loved one with a terminal illness or a long-term diagnosis, she said.
“Caring is underrated and at hospice we wanted to not only have a special day, but find ways to help them cope,” she said.
The workshops will not only have a presenter each time, but also something fun and “cocooning” in each session.
The workshop series is called “Nurturing the Caregiver” and will run over four months, starting this week. The workshops take place on a Saturday and although they are open to all, the number of places is limited, so it is essential to register in advance. This Saturday’s workshop is already full, but other workshops have space. Numbers are limited to seven or eight at each workshop due to space considerations and allowing for proper distancing as the world continues to grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I really want to convey that we know carers are caring for vulnerable people, so I want people to do what’s comfortable for them and that will be a safe space,” she said.
All workshops take place on Saturdays. The first will take place on March 26 and will feature Marilyn Saffrey with Art Therapy for Caregiver Stress. Hand massages will also be offered. The second workshop will take place on April 23 and will introduce yoga and relaxation breathing for caregivers with Ro Nwosu. In addition, there will be a soothing massage by Melissa Corriveau.
The third session will take place on May 28 and will feature mindfulness and nutrition with Jane Wood. There will also be mini Reiki treatments with Dora Boukouris. The final workshop will take place on June 25 and will feature Breathwork with Catie Clapp, Breathing and Somatics Trainer. There will also be mini-reflexologies with Tracey Liebig.
Ms Keon is keenly aware of the added stress for carers due to the pandemic and concern for the health of their loved ones, so she said masking will be maintained and physical distancing will be enforced. She wants it to be a safe place for caregivers, knowing they can learn a new skill and not feel more at risk of catching something due to the lack of masking or distancing requirements.
“We want caregivers to feel safe in our space,” she said. “It gives carers a chance to come out to see they’re not alone.”
The impetus behind these workshops is also very personal to her.
“I’m a caregiver and I know how important it is to take care of yourself,” she said. “Caregivers are sometimes overlooked.”
Her daughter, Meredith, suffered birth complications resulting in a significant brain injury. She was his caregiver and wrote a book to help parents deal with a child with additional needs and medical frailty titled “What I Would Tell You”.
“I’ve been an inveterate caregiver for many years now,” she said. “I know that paying attention to our needs helps us be better caregivers. Self-care is taking a step back so you can learn how to take care of yourself.
Caregiving is very isolating and the pandemic has made it even more so, Ms Keon noted. The addition of educational and stimulating elements to the workshops was deliberately planned to help caregivers in various ways. In addition, she will be present at the sessions in interaction with the caregivers.
“People can just come and relax for a few hours,” she said.
Another new initiative to help caregivers is a monthly caregiver support group that will be held the second Tuesday of every month at Hospice Renfrew. It will take place in the afternoon from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and is open to any caregiver in the department. Ms Keon said that while pre-registration is not required for this group, it is useful to know how many people will be attending, so registration would be appreciated. The first of the monthly Caregiver Support Groups will take place on Tuesday, April 12 and will continue on the second Tuesday of each month. If anyone is unable to pre-register and wishes to attend, they are welcome, she added.
In her work as a bereavement and bereavement counselor at Hospice Renfrew, Ms. Keon supports hospice clients and their families and leads workshops and bereavement support groups, but her role goes beyond that.
“I also do one-on-one bereavement counseling,” she said. “And I check with people who have been referred to hospice.”
While this is a service for people who have been involved in one way or another with Hospice Renfrew, it is also a service for anyone in the greater community who is bereaved and who wants bereavement counseling.
“It’s open to anyone in Renfrew County, whether or not your family member is here (at Hospice Renfrew) or has been here,” she said. “And it’s free.”
Families with a loved one at Hospice Renfrew receive pre-death support and get to know Mrs. Keon during their time there. However, there are many people in the community who have not come through the door of Hospice Renfrew to seek bereavement counselling.
“The majority of callers did not receive good support prior to death,” she noted.
Many referrals come from doctors or funeral directors, but people can also call Hospice Renfrew directly for bereavement counseling or to join a bereavement support group. There are certain parameters, of which the death must be six months or less ago.
“My role is to educate them on what normal grief is,” she explained.
Five or six sessions are available.
Ms Keon said it’s important that people grieve in their own way and don’t feel like they have to follow a set path. Offering advice and a listening ear is one way she helps in the grieving process.
To register for workshops for caregivers or to access bereavement and grief counseling, you can contact Ms. Keon at Hospice Renfrew at 613-433-3993 ext. 2237. Registration is required for workshops for caregivers, but is not required for the monthly. support group meetings for caregivers.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION