Danielle McCarthy of Montrose has a busy life. This retired teacher somehow finds balance in providing full time in-home care for her veteran husband, providing for her four children, working as the Volunteer Coordinator for Welcome Home Montrose, blogging for “Vibrant Caregiving,” and volunteering her time toward outreach in the broader caregiver community.

Danielle crossed paths with Region 10 during a “Lunch and Learn” workshop, where she learned about the organization’s efforts to provide support for area caregivers. She laughs, “I wish I knew about Region 10 four or five years ago, because I had no idea that there was that wealth of information available.” Based on her passion, Danielle was a natural fit for Region 10’s volunteer base, and she has proven to be a valuable asset for the caregiver community.

Danielle became a full time caregiver for her husband four years ago, when he – a veteran of the 302nd Tactical Airlift Wing (Air Force Reserves) during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and then 101st Airborne Division (Army) after the conflict – was medically discharged and needed full time treatment for his injuries. Based on her personal experiences, she became interested in expanding caregiver support, and saw a drastic need in the community. “When I went looking online for that support, there was nothing out there,” she comments. Danielle started “Vibrant Caregiving” (www.vibrantcaregiving.com), an online blog that documented her “trials and tribulations” over the course of her four years caring for her husband. What started as a cathartic space to share her feelings and thoughts turned into an online resource for other caregivers in the midst of what can be an emotionally trying reality. “My kids will be in random places, and be told ‘Oh, I know your mom’ and ‘I read her blog,” she laughs.

Danielle still wanted to do more to support the caregiver community, so she volunteered to help organize Region 10’s Caregiver Summit and Retreat. She wanted attendees to know that they were not alone in their experiences, and there are others willing to lend support within the community in an organic fashion. “It’s not all just professionals out there,” she comments. “There are everyday people walking the walk.” The Summit proved to be valuable experience for her, helping her see the breadth of experience within this one community and find common ground with so many different people. “We may be caring for different loved ones and different illnesses, but there are still a lot of those similarities in what we are facing and what we are doing,” she adds.

Without Danielle’s efforts, the Caregiver Summit would not have been as successful as it was. “Danielle has been a great asset to the Community Living Services’ overall caregiver program,” Amy Rowan, Options Counselor for Region 10, comments. “She has put in many hours helping us grow the caregiver support groups and Caregiver Summit.”

After getting engaged with Region 10’s Caregiver Summit and Retreat, Danielle became more deeply involved within this particular community. She began teaching workshops in conjunction with not only Region 10, but other valuable organizations like Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). One of her favorite topics is creating “Loved One Binders,” which consolidate a care recipient’s pertinent medical information into one central location, a folder. When families or healthcare providers are in that crisis moment – where they need to know, for example, how many medications and at what dosages a care recipient needs – a “Loved One Binder” could be a matter of life and death.

“If you are in a caregiver role, reach out for help; it’s there. That’s one of the scariest things to do. Even if you don’t know what to reach out for help for, just reach out to somebody and say ‘I’m stuck.’”

Danielle has a vision for future support for caregivers. She would like to see the program expand into specialized support groups that focus on specific illnesses, so that families can receive a higher degree of personalized care. Also, she sees a need for youth-oriented support groups, where kids of all ages get the emotional and social help they need to handle such a jarring home situation. For now though, the most important step to helping support the caregiver community is for caregivers themselves to become more active. “If you are in a caregiver role, reach out for help; it’s there,” Danielle proclaims. “That’s one of the scariest things to do. Even if you don’t know what to reach out for help for, just reach out to somebody and say ‘I’m stuck.’”

If you are a caregiver or you are interested in learning more about the support being offered by Region 10, please join us for a Caregiver’s Support Meeting which takes place August 6th from 1-2 pm at the Region 10 office (300 N. Cascade, Montrose) or August 21st from 4-5 pm at Hilltop (540 S. 1st, Montrose). Check out Region 10’s event calendar for more information: http://www.region10.net/calendar/.