Helping the helpers: Organization seeks those willing to offer a hand to caregivers |

Helping the helpers: Organization seeks those willing to offer a hand to caregivers

Tom Durkin
Special to The Union
Dr. Jeff Kane
Submitted photo

Know & Go

Who: One Source-Empowering Caregivers

What: Volunteer Care Specialist Training

Where: 563 Brunswick Rd, Suite 11, Grass Valley

When: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays, March 23, 30 and April 6

Admission: Free, with continental breakfasts and nutritious lunches. Pre-training interview required.

More information: Carolyn Seyler, 530-205-9514

“Caregiving is like you’re transfusing the patient with your own blood,” according to Jeffrey Kane, M.D.

Nevertheless, for some people, “caregiving is a calling,” he said.

Kane will be the keynote speaker March 23 for the sixth training class of volunteer care specialists for One Source-Empowering Caregivers.

“I will talk about the nature of caregivers, their potential for healing people and their potential for really damaging themselves,” the soft-spoken physician said.

The upcoming training runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for three consecutive Saturdays beginning March 23, said Carolyn Seyler, executive director of One Source-Empowering Caregivers, a nonprofit community service organization.

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The group’s volunteer care specialists are trained to donate “care free” time off to 24/7 caregivers while they provide compassionate, non-medical companionship to care recipients, said Seyler.

“Now is the time to sign up to become a volunteer care specialist,” Seyler said.

Space is limited and all candidates must sign up in person before the training begins, she said.

Let it bleed

This is the first time Kane has participated in training these volunteers.

However, organization founder Donna Raibley recruited him “since the beginning to be the facilitator for the volunteers’ monthly support group.

“Donna and I run around in the same circles,” Kane said with a smile.

Locally, Kane is known for facilitating support groups for cancer patients and their caregivers.

“In this work, I like to say caregivers need caregivers,” he said.

“If you’re going to do this work,” he tells the volunteers, “you have to have a caregiver. You have to have somebody who is concerned about you, and who can bleed the stuff off you.”

Being a Volunteer Care Specialist is challenging, he said. Part of his role is to help the volunteers learn “how to deal with suffering. It’s a skill.”

“I greatly value his insights at our group meetings,” said veteran specialist Sue Flynn, who went through the group’s first training. “His profound and evocative responses to our questions and statements have helped me to see my role as a caregiver more clearly.”

“I love Dr. Kane,” said Julie Washburn, an alumna of the second training. “I feel incredibly comfortable speaking with him.

“He brings balance, comfort and security to me when I speak with him about the cases I’ve had with OSEC.”

Volunteer coordinator Harriet Totten agreed.

“I love his practical and gentle no-nonsense approach, and the way he reminds us that it’s OK to bring lightness and humor to our time with the caregivers and care recipients, Totten said. “He is a thoughtful listener, and hears more than just the words we speak.”

Oye como va

Asked what his medical specialty is, Kane said, “Listening to people.”

That’s what he does with the One Source-Empowering Caregivers specialists.

Quoting the Tito Puente song made famous by Carlos Santana, Kane asks the volunteers, “Oye como va?”

Roughly translated: “How is it going with you?”

Kane wants to know, “What’s working for you, what’s not working for you?”

“I don’t feel inhibited at all when I speak with him,” Washburn said.  

Totten added Kane has created a safe, sacred space for volunteers to talk openly.

“Rather than being the leader of the group, his style is more like just being one of us. He has been both a caregiver and a care recipient,” Totten said.

Trained as a traditional doctor at USC, Kane has spent the last 35 years learning “relationship heals as much as any chemical.”

He’s written three books on the subject. His last is “The Bedside Manifesto: Healing the Heart of Healthcare.” He also writes a column for The Union’s Health section.

“I don’t have a lot of ‘don’ts’ for the volunteers,” he said. But, “The only don’t that I’m really repetitious about is ‘don’t fix.’ Don’t give solutions. It’s not about problems or solutions. It’s about feelings.”

“Spousal caregivers age 66 or older have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than non-caregivers the same age.”

Often, the caregiver is suffering more than the care recipient.

Sometimes, however, “The patients have to take care of the feelings of their family,” he said. “They always feel obliged to do that. They’re caregivers, too,”

Kane said he teaches the volunteers “how to be with people therapeutically, whether it is with the patient or the caregiver.”

A few good men and women

Virtually every volunteer, including Kane himself, admits they have a self-interest in being a volunteer.

“We just have a need to do it. We’re called to do it,” he said.

And Seyler is calling for 20 good people to volunteer for the free March 23 training.

This sixth class will be Seyler’s first as the new executive director of One Source-Empowering Caregivers. Raibley resigned in January, four years after she promised a dying friend to create the group.

Raibley remains as president of the board of directors.

“We are striving to meet Nevada County caregivers’ needs as we grow our programs and services,” said Seyler, who plans to offer four trainings this year. “We are continuing to reach out, coordinate and collaborate with community partners and nonprofits. We have an organized, strategic plan of growth.

“This is an exciting time. Please join in.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada County. He is a consultant to One Source-Empowering Caregivers. Contact him at or

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