One Source — Empowering Caregivers graduates first class of care specialists in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

One Source — Empowering Caregivers graduates first class of care specialists in Nevada County

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To learn more or make a donation, visit EmpoweringCaregivers.org or on Facebook at One Source — Empowering Caregivers

So often they’re the invisible ones. The ones you catch a glimpse of at the end of a grocery store aisle, looking a little disheveled. It’s been months, maybe even a year since you’ve seen them.

“How’s it going? What have you been up to? It’s been ages,” you say.

But the answers are sparse, scattered and rushed. And soon, they’re off.

Thousands of Nevada County residents are quietly and privately facing one of the biggest challenges of their adult lives: caring for a sick — often terminally ill — loved one. Bound by obligation, loyalty and love, many feel that asking for help might somehow be a betrayal. As a result, many caregivers try to provide long hours of daily, minute-to-minute care by themselves, often at the risk of their own health.

“Many caregivers don’t identify as primary caregivers — they just assume that’s what family members do. ... But we help educate them and explain that, yes, it’s OK to care for yourself.”Deborah Rousseau

No one understands this better than Donna Raibley, a Grass Valley resident who spent more than 10 years as a caregiver for various close friends and family members. Several years ago, she stepped in to help her friend Yvon Dockter, who was struggling with the day-to-day care of her husband, Craig, as he was dying of cancer. Near the end of his life, Craig expressed his wish to start a respite-for-caregivers business with Raibley, who promised she would carry out their vision.

Today, Raibley couldn’t be more proud. Nov. 12 was graduation day for the first class of 14 “volunteer care specialists,” sponsored by the nonprofit organization she founded, known as “One Source — Empowering Caregivers.” With Raibley serving as executive director, the organization’s mission is “to improve quality of life for caregivers and their loved ones by providing cost-free, non-medical support while they remain at home in a safe and healthy environment.”

“I’m just so proud,” said Raibley. “Typically training programs draw a lot of people initially, then attendance starts to fall off. But we retained all 14 volunteers through 22 hours of intensive training. Soon we’ll be matching volunteers with caregivers. We already have about 15 waiting families.”

Founded in 2014, Raibley wanted to be certain the nonprofit, often referred to as OSEC, was properly structured prior to offering training and services.

“We wanted to bring a board together of diverse backgrounds,” said Raibley. “As a result we have a doctor, two nurses, an attorney and a social worker. We all put our heads together and talked about the kind of program we wanted to create. Many caregivers are functioning in a vacuum and don’t realize what kinds of services are out there. In addition to free respite care, we want to provide information on other resources.”

Initially, OSEC volunteers conduct a face-to-face assessment in the caregiver’s home to determine needs, share information on services and get to know caregivers and their loved ones.

“This is the time for the caregiver to be honest about any needs or limitations of their loved ones,” said Raibley. “Even if you feel that your loved one is challenging to deal with, there are volunteer care specialists who can be very helpful. For now, we plan to offer four hours a week of free care, but we will be listening to our caregivers to see if they need more time. Every month we plan to evaluate the impact of our service on caregivers.”

Volunteers must be fingerprinted and undergo a security background check conducted by the Dept. of Justice. While volunteers are not a substitute for healthcare workers, much of the thorough, intensive training covers medical issues, dementia, grief, legal matters such as HIPAA laws, communication skills, personal safety, disease processes, falls prevention, cultural differences, professional conduct and much more.

“I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of this amazing program,” said recent OSEC graduate Deborah Rousseau. “The caliber of volunteers is amazing. I feel like I have found a group of like-minded people who are all interested in truly making an impact to help others. Many caregivers don’t identify as primary caregivers — they just assume that’s what family members do. But some say they feel like they’re drowning and can’t even find time to take a shower. But we help educate them and explain that, yes, it’s OK to care for yourself.”

OSEC could not have come about without its donors, said Raibley, including several churches, service organizations and private individuals. Donations help cover the cost of training materials, security background checks and minimal administrative costs. Thankfully, a Brunswick Road office space with a boardroom has been offered to OSEC at a fraction of typical nearby rental costs.

“The caliber of volunteers is the same as the caregivers themselves,” said Raibley. “I feel so honored to be of service — this is such an important mission. We’re hoping to do another training soon, and possibly one a quarter in the future. I see this as a new movement, one that could spread to other communities. When this many people show up to help, miracles happen.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.