By Ed Vilade
Caring Connections, Riderwood’s new, comprehensive life-planning initiative, is completing its pilot phase and gearing up for the next round of classes, to start around the first of the year. The 12-week course offers advice, strategies and access to resources to help with the fundamental legal, financial and medical decisions we all need to make as we age.
Caring Connections is a collaboration between Riderwood Resident Services — the social work department — and the Continuing Education Committee, both bringing educational opportunities to residents. The course, “Navigating As We Age: Changes and Choices,” is the centerpiece of Caring Connections, but by no means the only part. Caring Connections also sponsors special events and has established a reference library within the Village Square library, plus a website for researching expert resources on a variety of topics related to aging / end of life. Classes also will be recorded for later viewing. All material will be available online to residents and their families regardless of whether they take the course or not.
“A wealth of information is available on issues we face as we age,” said Mina Wuchenich, a member of the committee. “But sources are frequently scattered or consulted too late to anticipate key issues. Caring Connections will bring all of this information together, and the course will give the attendees the questions to ask to elicit the right answers for their situations. The aim of the whole program is to give residents the factual tools and the emotional support to navigate the aging process ahead of need.”
“The initial idea was providing more information on care giving,” said Resident Services Manager Ellen Lebedow, “but as we proceeded, we realized we needed a complete overview of how to construct a plan for Riderwood residents to have in place to cover many contingencies — expected and unexpected — involved in aging.”
The pilot will end in late August. It was limited to 20 residents, but classes in the next phase may be larger depending on response.
“I think it is a wonderful and very useful class and I hope they expand it,” says participant Amy Greenwood. “It is really helpful, no matter where we are in the process of planning. The class is giving us the overview and the materials to avoid the problems that we all know are out there.”
Another participant says of it, “It is a very good course and I am going to recommend it to others. It was the pilot, and there were a few glitches — that is to be expected. I thought I was pretty well situated to face the future, but I have learned a lot of things, and I will put them to use. I have also learned communication techniques that will help me to discuss these issues with my family.”
“The Caring Connections classes target computer-literate residents,” says Mina, “who are alert learners to understand and act upon the issues. However, the written and viewable source material is available to all residents and their families.”
After the pilot, the Committee will review feedback, revise the curriculum as needed, and continue gathering information and lining up speakers. When that process is complete, the Committee will take applications for the next 12-week course. The course is free, but a fee covers handouts and other materials.
For more information – resource materials, schedule of upcoming events and pilot handouts and recordings – see http://www.riderwoodlife.org, search box- Caring Connections. Also, watch this Reporter space and the usual communications channels.