Including Oral Health in Family Caregiver Seminars

Overview
To support unpaid family caregivers as they provide care to loved ones, AAADSW partnered with PeaceHealth Medical to launch a three-hour course titled Caring for Your Loved One at Home. The course addresses a variety of topics; this project added 30-minutes of oral health education and skills development.

Submitted by: Christina Marneris, Program Coordinator, Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities of Southwest Washington (AAADSW)

Project Goal(s) and Objective(s)
The goals of the project were to:

  • Provide oral health education, both the importance of oral health and how to deliver oral health care, to unpaid family caregivers residing in Southwest Washington
  • Improve oral health, overall health, and quality of life for care recipients as well as caregivers

Approach
Through involvement with a family care alliance, AAADSW became aware that unpaid family caregivers in the community were in need of skills training to better assist their family members. At one point, the American Red Cross was able to provide skills training. When the American Red Cross was no longer able to provide this service, a huge gap was left for family caregivers. AAADSW saw this as an opportunity to host and partner in promoting the skill-based trainings jointly with PeaceHealth Medical, an already established community partner. PeaceHealth Medical could provide the training facility and help with class promotion, and AAADSW could provide their already popular and seasoned health educator. The course, Caring for Your Loved One at Home, covered topics relevant to unpaid family caregivers (such as legal and financial considerations), and convened once a week for 2.5-hours for five consecutive weeks. One of the 2.5-hour sessions includes 30-minutes focused on oral health education and skill building. Oral health topics addressed include:

  • Importance of oral health
  • Oral health problems for seniors
    • Connections between oral health and overall health
    • Dry mouth
    • Oral health and stroke
    • Oral health and heart disease
    • Link between oral health and diabetes
  • Tips for caregivers
  • Resources

Promotion of the program was shared by AAADSW and PeaceHealth Medical. PeaceHealth sent email communications and posted information on their website. AAADSW Information and Assistance (I&A) included information about upcoming caregiver trainings in a quarterly newsletters sent to community partners, county contractors, and interested individuals.

Successes and Challenges
As the class is designed now, there is typically a waiting list to attend. The success of this initiative is attributed to the following:

  • An effective and well-known health educator
  • Established databases that allow us to conduct effective outreach about educational opportunities
  • Ability to adapt approaches so that the information is accessible to family caregivers and seniors
  • Strong relationships with key community partner

Lessons Learned
It’s critical to have partners who understand the value of a program and will advocate for it. In this case, PeaceHealth Medical has a dedicated health educator who is a champion for the Caring for Your Loved One at Home program.

Materials

  • Why Oral Health?– 30-minute session on oral health.
  • Oral Health flyer – This is a general flyer used by Information & Assistance staff to build awareness about oral health in the community. It is not tied to the educational classes.

Sustainability
Incorporating oral health education into the Caring for Your Loved One at Home course helps make providing oral health education for family caregivers sustainable for the future. Other organizations interested in incorporating oral health education into a similar direct skills training may contact AAADSW for guidance on caregiver training and curriculum development.