Telephone Reassurance for Cargivers Service to Active Adults

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Once a week, Sadie Poinsett-White, a dedicated caregiver for her husband, picks up her phone and receives encouragement and support from a friendly voice on the other end of the line.

caregivers couple active adultLike all good teachers, Sadie Poinsett-White is a student as well. As a caregiver for her husband Bob, she is always on the lookout for information on caregiving. During a visit to the National Rehab Hospital in Wheaton last summer, Ms. Poinsett-White found a brochure on the Telephone Reassurance for Caregivers program. She decided to give the free service a try.

In August 2005, Ms. Poinsett-White was matched with a trained program volunteer, KT Cane. The two have talked weekly since then. Through the weekly conversations, KT offers companionship, support, and basic information related to caregiving.

Sadie’s husband, Bob White, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1992. In 1998, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, Ms. Poinsett-White retired from a 24-year career as a Head Start-Kindergarten teacher with the Montgomery County Public Schools. She misses the honest and loving nature of the young children she taught, as well as the relationships she developed with her students’ parents and her colleagues.

Ms. Poinsett-White also took a leave from her involvement as a community activist. An advocate for children’s right to a quality education, she worked with the African American Festival of Academic Excellence to provide scholarships for African American students. Ms. Poinsett-White and her husband also worked in local schools to mentor second grade students. The Montgomery County Council recognized her leadership as a community activist by appointing her to serve on the County Executive’s East County Citizens Advisory Board in 1999.

In order to stay healthy and maintain a balanced perspective on her caregiving experience, Ms. Poinsett-White plays volleyball regularly. She is a member of the women’s volleyball team that represents Maryland in the Senior Olympics; she plays up and down the East Coast and in national tournaments.

Keeping a positive outlook helps Ms. Poinsett-White cope with the challenges of caregiving. She also looks forward to her weekly phone conversations with Ms. Cane. When the two first began talking in August 2005, Ms. Poinsett-White was looking for tips on taking care of her husband and helping him deal with the challenges of living with Parkinson’s disease. Over time, Ms. Poinsett-White and Ms. Cane have become close and now share other aspects of their lives.

The Poinsett-Whites celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on September 11, 2005. The couple has two children and one grandson. The Poinsett-White’s children are supportive, but they have full lives of their own.

Caregivers often discover that it is difficult for family members to be objective and to provide the level of support needed. After all, family members are experiencing their own challenges related to the illness or disability of a close relative. Developing a support network of people beyond the immediate family is vital to the wellbeing of the caregiver.

“Telephone Reassurance for Cargivers is a service that fills a void,” says Ms. Poinsett-White. She continues, “It provides a human connection for people who might feel isolated and alone.” Telephone Reassurance serves as a source of basic information on caregiving and provides referrals to other resources. The program helps caregivers like Ms. Poinsett-White care for their loved ones, while remaining active and healthy.

For more information about The Telephone Reassurance for Caregivers Program, call the Montgomery County Volunteer Center at 240-777-2600.

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