“One thing that you recognize as you become more present in caring for someone else, the priorities of your time and energy are very easily shifted to them and remembering to prioritize yourself is important. Your own health and wellness are paramount to our ability to care for others.” – Carol D., caregiver participating in our wellness programs
We are thrilled to launch the CALM Connections online learning platform for dementia family caregivers. Over the past decade of offering our wellness programs to family caregivers, our Wellness Initiative has learned first-hand some of the challenges and barriers that caregivers face when caring for someone they love. While we’ve offered a variety of in-person programs to those in and around the Ann Arbor area, sharing the skills developed in our programs in a new, virtual way was always an opportunity we hoped to meet to provide more caregivers with the resources they need to thrive. While workshops and presentations may serve helpful for learning new skills, we’ve often found that caregivers many times miss the opportunity to truly practice these new skills or connect with others who may have gone through similar experiences. We are pleased to share that CALM Connections makes it possible for all caregivers to learn online, beyond the borders of the Ann Arbor area, and connect with the wisdom and experiences of others in a safe and private way. This is a truly unique initiative to support dementia family caregivers, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to share these resources with the larger dementia community.
Working to help caregivers feel connected and prepared with the tools they need to thrive
A long-term and sustainable approach to wellbeing includes navigating the inevitable rough patches and building the capacity to navigate through uncertainty, uncomfortable changes, feelings, and difficult decisions. CALM Connections aims to foster this approach to wellbeing through developing greater caregiver confidence to navigate the down cycles, while returning to self-care practices before, during and after these cycles conclude. We’ve found that caregivers need a dedicated outlet, reminders, and a sense of community to maintain their health for a resilient and enjoyable life. CALM Connections was created to bring the emotional and mental wellbeing needs of the caregiver to the forefront of daily life and care planning.When strong wellness habits are firmly in place, a caregiver is much better equipped to mitigate unnecessary distress and isolation which better supports their family and the person under their care.
Promoting connection to avenues of support, elevating the importance of community, and eliminating program barriers
The site content and features in CALM Connections are structured to support participants in learning, prioritizing, and practicing skills for their wellbeing in their daily lives. With doorways to live programming opportunities in each session, caregivers can choose their own wellness path and best dose of self-paced information and support without feeling pressure to officially “join” a group. CALM Connections contains a library of sessions as part of an expanding learning curriculum. Sessions are organized around topics which provide each participant with layers of information and opportunities for reflection and practice. Sessions include navigating the emotional terrain of difficult decisions, grieving through changes and loss, implementing, adjusting, and maintaining boundaries, as well as mindfulness-based approaches to care. Each session highlights practical skills while highlighting actionable next steps and clarity through complex issues. While caregivers are busy and overwhelmed, building these new habits and creating more space for self-care takes time and practice. This platform allows caregivers to revisit sessions and modules to practice, adjust, or elaborate on these skills. Each session includes audio recordings, handouts, videos, meditations, and recommendations for further exploration in each topic area. Participants can also find additional program information for while highlighting actionable next steps and clarity through complex issues. While caregivers are busy and overwhelmed, building these new habits and creating more space for self-care takes time and practice. This platform allows caregivers to revisit sessions and modules to practice, adjust, or elaborate on these skills. Each session includes audio recordings, handouts, videos, meditations, and recommendations for further exploration in each topic area. Participants can also find additional program information for connection with other caregivers. Access to program recordings and places for writing and saving personal notes-to-self are also available.
Designed to develop wellness strategies and stress resilience skills to support caregiver wellbeing
CALM Connections provides wellbeing content and peer wisdom to help caregivers prioritize their own needs and health while caring for others. Because the caregiving journey presents unique challenges over many years, the vision of CALM Connections is to offer ongoing education, training, and resources to consistently support a caregiver’s wellbeing needs over time. Maintaining one’s own wellbeing while caring for a loved one with dementia is difficult and requires continuous commitment, tailored environments, and reinforcements. CALM Connections provides encouragement and ongoing opportunities to regularly return to one’s self-care. It is a space for growing, healing, and finding reassurance while building skills for resilience through easy to access sessions in a self-paced format.
We are enthusiastic to be able to offer this service to the caregivers we work with, and new caregivers who may be interested in learning more about developing stress resilience and wellness skills. We hope to continue to develop new programs and materials here on CALM Connections to meet the needs of family caregivers and that this will be a place to visit and refuel between our in-person groups, other support groups, or other dementia programming. Like a bookmark placed in the journal of one’s personal wellbeing, it’s a way to stay closer to a deeper, calmer and more grounded sense of self through it all.
Visit CALM Connections at calmconnections.med.umich.edu
Learn more about current caregiver programs at alzheimers.med.umich.edu/wellness-initiative