In early 2016, Okanagan College contacted us in search of an experienced caregiver who would like to speak to a health promotion and gerontology class. The idea was to discuss family members who care for older adults needing assistance, and to identify health promotion strategies and community support for family caregivers.
Our patient partner Lois Dalrymple was then selected for the opportunity, due to her experience of caring and coordinating care for her husband and years of work as a nurse in Penticton.
Lois spoke to students who loved hearing her positive perspective as a caregiver, according to Dana Susheski, the course instructor and our health care partner for the opportunity, who selected her:
So often we get caught up in caring for the client, that the family perspective is not heard. The students really appreciated learning more about the stressors and health promotion strategies Lois uses, and she also talked a lot about community resources and how their home had been modified to meet the needs of her husband over the years. She even offered students the opportunity to visit and see these modifications! It’s a lived experience and perspective not found in textbooks or curriculum.
The engagement experience was very rewarding for Lois as well, as she was able to share her story and, in turn, learn from the students. Some of them were not aware that a person with very complex care problems could be cared for at home, as the family caregiver side is not taught at schools.
The class at Okanagan College was very interested in how I cope being a caregiver to my husband. After I spoke they asked questions and I felt that they understood the caregiver role better. Because my husband lives at home we have been able to have a better quality of life. At home we are both able to do activities that interest us and take part in the community.
Lois and her husband, whose health requires 24 hour care, spoke about brain injury and care to other students a few years ago, so she felt her experience could really help in this engagement opportunity. She believes that sharing the caregiver experience is really important, as it gives students another perspective of health care:
The best thing about volunteering with PVN is that I get to help change health care in a very positive way. I have attended several conferences and learning opportunities, and I feel that we have a voice in changes in health care. It has been a very rewarding experience – said Lois, who has been a PVN Patient Partner for approximately seven years.