Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!
This week, Rayna Neises, your host, talks with Drew Brenner. Drew is the founder of the Kansas Caregiver Network, an organization that links caregivers with the support and resources they need. His ideas for this group grew from his personal caregiving experience with his mother. Unfortunately, between the time of this recording in late 2020 and today, she passed away. This episode is in memory of Drew’s, mom, Barbara Brenner.
- As a family caregiver, you are not alone in this battle and sometimes you just need a voice, an ear to listen, a pat on the back, or someone to say, “You’re doing a great job.”
- Family Caregiver Day, created by the Kansas Caregiver Network, is celebrated annually in December.
- The “I Care For” Program is a free card for caregivers to carry that alerts others that this person is responsible for the care of someone else.
- The Kansas Caregiver Network also provides a free Caregiver Bag containing a gait belt, gown, gloves, masks, and a journal.
- When you clash with the person you are caring for, it is a sign that you need to take a step back:
- Go outside
- Take a breath
- Drive around the block
- Walk the dog
- Talk with someone
- Find a respite program
- Caregiver burnout is real and can happen to anyone. Learn the signs and then seek out the help and support that you need.
*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
Welcome to A Season of Caring Podcast where there’s hope for living, loving, and caring with no regrets. This is Rayna Neises, your host, and today I’m excited to introduce you to Drew Brenner. Drew has been his mom’s caregiver for the last 10 years. Unfortunately between the time of this recording in late 2020 and today, Barbra Brenner has passed away. Drew started the Kansas caregiver network as a link to help other caregivers get support, resources and to network with other caregivers. He saw caring for his mom as one of his greatest honors. He knows firsthand the struggle of taking care of an aging parent with major health concerns. He knows how hard it is to talk to health care workers, such as caseworkers nurses, and doctors. He wanted to start an organization that could be the link to help caregivers get the support and resources they need. It is so hard to be a caregiver it’s even harder to not have the support for resources to provide that care. Drew has worked at the medical loan closet for the past five years, helping others get the equipment that they need to provide the care for their loved one. This episode of A Season of Caring Podcast is in memory of Drew Brenner’s, mom. Barbara Brenner.
Welcome Drew, thank you for coming today.
Thank you for inviting me. I appreciate it.
I’m excited to be able to share with others a little bit more of the story behind the Kansas Caregiver Network, so tell us a little bit about what you do and how you got started.
We’ve been struggling with healthcare issues with my mom forever. And so for me, it was very difficult to talk to nurses and talk to doctors and talk to the case managers. And it was really difficult for me to say, Hey, I need help with this. I’m not sure what I’m doing. I don’t know, because all the social workers, all the nurses as wonderful as they are they’re busy. They don’t have time to really listen to the caregiver because they’re working with the patient trying to get the patient well. They don’t have time to really find out what the caregiver needs to be successful on providing that care. So. I decided to look into this, to see if there was a link to help me as a caregiver to get resources. There are tons and thousands of resources out there, but it’s not specific to caregivers. It’s specific to the person getting the care, but it’s not specific to that caregiver. And so I wanted to really be that link to help those caregivers not only get resources help be the voice to that caregiver because you know, there’s advocates for patients. There’s advocates for diseases, but there’s not advocates for caregivers. And I really wanted to let caregivers know that they’re not alone in this battle. We can help them through this. And sometimes they just need a voice and sometimes they just need an ear to listen to them. So that’s really why I started the Kansas caregiver network because I do know the struggle and we’re dealing with the struggle even today. And I really wanted to help other caregivers to let them know that they’re not alone in this and that they’re doing a great job. And sometimes caregivers just need a pat on the back and some would just say, you’re doing a good job.
I love that it’s so important because I hadn’t really thought of it in that way before that there are advocates for everybody, but there’s not advocates for caregivers. And so many times I think one of the challenges is even calling ourselves caregivers. We’re just family members who love our loved one, and we just want to be able to be involved and get what they need. So many times that means we have to learn a foreign language and spend a ton of time researching and finding all of these things that are available out there. So I so appreciate your heart and your willingness to step into that role and really help caregivers know that they have an advocate on their side. They have someone who will listen, who will speak English, who will encourage them in that season. And provide them an opportunity to find the resources that they really need to do the best job they can for their loved one. That’s amazing.
absolutely. We’re excited about it and we’re going strong. I started it last year and I thought with COVID it was going to kind of come to a halt and it kind of did. But we’re getting calls daily wanting resources and needing resources and questions about COVID and questions about this, that or the other thing. And cause right now people are scared. And so really it’s great that we can really provide that voice and be that voice for that caregiver, because it’s sad. Caregivers are, I don’t want to say we’re, we’re not, well, we’re not, we’re not appreciated. You know, there’s not a caregiver day for family members, you know, there’s caregiver days for professional caregivers, the nurses and the doctors, but not for us family members that are stepping into this role as a caregiver. Well there is now, so the Kansas caregiver network, we do have a caregiver day that is in December.
I’m reminded of the famous quote by Roslyn Carter, that tells us, there are four kinds of people in this world. They are caregivers. They will be a caregiver. They will need a caregiver, or they have, have been a caregiver. I think I messed up that order, but that’s the four of them. So I know I’ve been in all of those roles. And again, I think so many times I’ve been in that role. And I didn’t even know that’s what I was. I just was a person who cared and stepped up and provided what was needed and the people who cared for me when I needed it were just people who love me and stepped in and helped. That helper role can become a really big part of our lives whenever our loved one needs increased significantly, so, so important and I appreciate that. You’re just being that voice to really express that appreciation. So tell me more about the Kansas caregiver network and what programs you offer.
So part of the reason why I started the Kansas caregiver network was because again, I do know the struggle of being a caregiver. I do know the honors of being the caregiver. For me, If I go out in the world and I get into a car accident and God forbid, something happens to me. My mom is at home and she does need care. Who’s going to know that my mom is in trouble at home. Yes. They’re taking care of me. Yes. I’m being taken care of, but there’s also a life at risk outside of mine. It’s my mom or the person I’m caring for. So. This really got me questioning. Well, what will happen? I got into a car accident and a couple of years ago I was fine, but it really got me to think about who, what will happen to my mom? And, you know, that’s, that’s kind of a scary thought. And so what I decided to do was start a I Care For Program and what this I Care For Program and it’s just a simple thing. It’s a card. And this card says, alert I care for, you know, to get hospitals, the emergency rooms, the police departments, the fire departments to be on the lookout for this card. So that way, they know that this person that they’re caring for is also a caregiver for somebody else. And this caregiver card actually has a barcode on it and you scan the barcode and then it will pull up, kind of like a medical history of the person that they’re caring for, but it will also pull up a safety plan of the person that they’re caring for. So that way they can say, okay, well, this person cares for his mother We got to get this activated. We got to call this person’s sister, their daughter, their brother, whoever, that second person is. So that way that person can get the care that they need and be calm and know that the person that they’re caring for is going to get the care that they need as well. So this Kansas Caregiver Card it’s called the alert I Care For Card is free to all caregivers. The only thing that we ask is that you pay it forward. You know, we’ll send that card to you. Let somebody know, Hey, if you’re a caregiver, here’s a card for you. It is free. The forms are free. Everything that you need is on that card. And the cool thing that’s on this card is there’s advanced directives. There’s a DPOA forms. There’s all of these forms, not only for you as the caregiver to fill out, but for your person that you’re caring for. So there’s two folders on this card. One folder is for you as a caregiver and the other is for your person that you’re caring for. And so that way they can get the information about you so they can take care of you, but they also can get the information about the person that you’re caring for into the hands of someone that can take care of it. For example, my mom is on home health so. It says on my, I Care For Card that my mom is on home health, the agency that she’s with the phone number that she’s with. And so that way, if something happens to me, the nurses, the doctors that are taking care of me can call. And get my mom the care that she needs. So really that’s what the I Care For Card is. And it’s really a booming program. I was actually shocked quick that blew up. It’s a wonderful thing and it’s getting the information out there. It’s getting the hospitals to know that you, yes, you are being cared for, but you’re caring for someone and that person needs. Some attention. So really that’s what that’s for.
Amazing idea. Because oftentimes the people we’re caring for are able to be left alone, but not without care eventually, whether it be medication that they need or things like that. And just having that peace of mind, that someone’s going to be able to step in and take care of that. Like you said, allows you to take care of yourself, which is such an important piece of being a caregiver is learning to care for yourself as well as the person that you love. Just getting the cards, not going to help you, you have to go in and put all of that information in and make sure it’s accessible about your individual that you’re caring for as well as for yourself. I love that you’ve included that advanced directive information and DPOA information, because it’s so important to have that easily accessible. We have so many electronic options today, but it still has to be something that if we can’t communicate, somebody else can find it. So they know that as well.
Right. And the thing about it is technology is so wonderful. I mean, technology is great, but you have to do the work still. I mean, I can send you the card. I can send you the forms that you’re going to actually have to sit there and do it. And if you need help filling those forms out, there’s help out there. We can help you. We can get you in touch with your local resources to help you get those forms filled out. We actually dumbed those forms down a little bit. So like the health history forms, I’ve dumbed them down a little bit. So even for the healthcare professionals, you know, this is good for like home health workers, you know, because they do care for people. Now granted. It’s going to look different than for me, but for a home health nurse, they can have a, I care for a card as well in their back pocket. Because what if that nurse is going to a patient, gets into a car wreck, God forbid, they can actually see that this person is a caregiver working for a home health agency. And they probably should call the home health agency to let them know what’s going on. I Care For Card is not just for kids that are taking care of their parents or, or family members that are taking care of their loved one it’s for any, and everybody that cares for somebody, because it’s very important that we get that information out there. It’s it’s scary to me and I cheer up every time I think about it because. My mom is at home and I’m the one that’s laid up in the hospital. And I’m worried about my mom more than I’m worried about taking care of myself. So if I can have a brief moment to where I can relax for a second and get the care that I need and know that my mom is going to be okay, just because of this little plastic card, it’s all worth it. You want to, I care for a card. All you gotta do is just email us and we’ll send one out to you for sure.
So are there services that you provide, you have a caregiver bag that you also provide?
We do. So if you are a caregiver we will help you with certain caregiver things. There’s like I said before, there’s resources out there for the patient, but there’s not a lot out there for you as a caregiver. So we’ll help you get like a gait belt to help with transportation. We’ll help you get a slide board if you need one, we’ll help you get. Anything that you need to help provide that care. So gloves, masks, gowns, whatever you need to help protect yourself. We have a bag and in that bag is a gait belt is some gowns, gloves, masks. There’s even a little journal. We have this amazing little caregiver planner that we made up for you that you can put not only your appointments in, but your person that you’re caring for. Plans got 52 weeks. There’s little great quotes in there. Just kind of give you some inspiration in your journey of being a caregiver. There was one quote, it says “Don’tcount the days. Make the days count.” Muhammad Ali. I think that is very important. Especially as a caregiver. We have to not only take care of ourselves because we’re taking care of somebody else. And, if we go down, who’s going to take care of that person. So really that’s kind of where the caregiver bag comes in is it does help with self-care. This gives you some ideas of how to take a little break, even if it’s going out in the garden for a couple seconds, or if it’s going outside, sometimes you have to walk away. I know for me, I’m scared to even go drive to the grocery store. So really it’s given that peace of mind to those caregivers, that it is okay to go do those things. And you do have a voice. Those bags are available to any, and everybody is that you don’t have to live in Kansas. We’ll mail one out to you. And again, if you just email us at email@example.com, we’ll send that out to you as well.
Thank you so much, Drew, are some great resources, hands-on real-life things that people need. And we really appreciate that heart of just providing that care for caregivers. It’s amazing. So, do you have any specific advice that’s been helpful to you as you’ve been in this caring season that you would like to pass on to our listeners?
I think the biggest thing is that being aware that caregiver burnout is a real thing that you can get burned out. You can get stressed out. I know for me, there’s times where I’ve just got so much on my plate. I got so much to do and I am just so overwhelmed, stressed. Sometimes you just need to step back and take a breath. I know for me and my mom and it may not work for everybody, but for us, it does. We have a tap out, you know, I need to take a tap out. Because you know, we have to remember as caregivers. Yes. It’s hard being a caregiver. It’s not an easy thing, but it’s just as hard for the person that you’re caring for. For example, my mom is my mom, she’s supposed to take care of me, not the roles reversed, but we get to this point where. It kind of has to happen. You know, my mom needs me, but I need her just as much as she needs me right now. My mom, her smile, you know, is what melts my day. My mom is such an amazing person. She’s got amazing quotes, amazing love. And so, but when you live with someone and you’re working with them every day, sometimes you just want to pull her hair out because they’re driving you nuts. So sometimes, and that’s okay. That’s okay. That. It’s a clash a little bit, just because you’re clashing doesn’t mean that you don’t love them. It just means that you need to take a step back. That’s a warning sign to you that you just need to go outside. Take a breath, go get in their car and drive around the block. Go take your dog for a walk. There are things that you can do every day. To just breathe. And sometimes caregivers need to be reminded to take it one day at a time and breathe. And so really Kansas Caregiver Network we’re not just a voice, we’re an ear too. So if you need to call us and say, I just need someone to scream at for five minutes. Well, that’s what we’re here for. So call us, you may get our voicemail because you we do get quite a bit of calls right now, but we’ll call you back and you can scream at us if you need to. But fine. Not only just us, you can call your friend, a family member, but having that person that you can talk to that understands being a caregiver is going to be so much better for you as a caregiver, because they’re going to be able to say. It’s okay. It’s normal breeze. And so I think for me having that ear that I can say, this is what I’m struggling with. Because again, every person’s different, every carer is different. Every care plan is different. You know what works for me may not work for you, but what works for you may work for Julie. So that’s why Kansas Caregiver Network was created because we can all get together and share ideas and really be that network to help other caregivers know that they’re not alone. And caregiver, burnout is a real thing. And I can’t stress this enough, but knowing the signs that you’re burned out, knowing that you’re stressed out. What do you do to relieve that? Is it calling your friend to come hang out with your caregiving person for a little bit? So you can go take a walk. For us, my mom can take care of it, of herself. She doesn’t have to have 24 hour around the clock care so I can walk away for a little bit. Now we have an alert button. So she does get in trouble. She can push that button and calls me immediately and I can come home. But again, it’s really being able to know your limits and know that you’re not alone in this. And if you do need to take a step back and break. There’s resources to help you do that. There’s programs I know for Sedgwick County, there’s several programs out there for respite care. If the caregiver does need to take a break, so going to your local Department on Aging and finding out if they do have a respite program or it’s going to be beneficial to you.
Drew, I can’t believe our time’s up already your passion in your care for not only your mom but just for other caregivers is just admirable. And we’re so excited to be able to share with our listeners all the great resources Drew’s organization has available. Again, it’s Kansas Caregivers Network. They are on Facebook. So definitely check out the resources that are available there. And as he said, just Info@KCNCares.org is that email address, we’ll have all that available on our podcast resource page as well. Just a way to be able to contact him and request that care for cards. And then also the caregiver bag. We just thank you so much for the resources Drew and your passion. Again, listeners, make sure you check out that resource page so that you can get in touch with Drew, find his group on Facebook and find some additional resources there.
Just a reminder, A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you have medical, financial, or legal questions, please contact your local professionals and take part in a season of caring.
*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
Drew Brenner started the Kansas Care Giver Network as a link to help other caregivers get support, resources, and network with other caregivers.
He saw being the primary caregiver to his mom as an honor. He knows first hand the struggle of taking care of an aging parent with major health concerns. Knowing how hard it is to talk to health care workers such as caseworkers and nurses, Drew wanted to start an organization that could be the link to help caregivers get the support and resources they need.
It is so hard to be a caregiver, it’s even harder if you do not have the support or resources to provide that care.
Drew has worked at the Medical Loan Closet for the past five years helping people with equipment needs and he enjoyed the role of being my mom’s caregiver for 10 years.
This episode is in Memory of Barbara Brenner, Drew’s mom, who was a bright light in the world and is greatly missed.
Your turn, share your thoughts . . .
To help out the show:
- Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
- Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our list below now and never miss an episode.