Caregiving podcast offers new way to connect
For Brenda Crann, a caregiver for her mother, Lola, who is living with Alzheimer’s, COVID-19 was an earthquake, disrupting everything in their carefully balanced routine.
“We lost access to the adult day services my mother was attending regularly,” says Brenda, who lives in the San Diego area. “And I lost access to my support group.”
Brenda was a faithful member of a support group hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association San Diego Imperial Chapter at a local library.
“It was a great experience to be with such like-minded individuals, people who were going through the same journey. I learned so much from the group,” Brenda says.
Although the support group transitioned to an online video platform, Brenda missed the face-to-face camaraderie and connection — and she wasn’t alone. The group’s moderator, volunteer Susan Bos, also felt as though something was missing.
“It lacked a certain intimacy,” Susan says, “where you could actually sit with someone in person and hug them and hold their hand or give them a tissue. You felt closer.”
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Susan was worried about the people in her support group, who were facing new and difficult caregiving challenges in a world defined by COVID-19. She was also stressed by the new hurdles she faced as a caregiver. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Susan was unable to visit her mom, Flossie, who is living with Alzheimer’s and resides in a nursing home. She shared her frustrations on a late-night phone call with a longtime friend from college, Daniel Painitz.
“Daniel surprised me. He asked if I’d ever thought of turning my support group into a podcast,” says Susan. “Of course I never had. But then I thought, why not give it a shot? We’re trying to find our way through this new reality and people need help, and they’re not able to get it in person.”
A sound idea
Daniel, who produces several podcasts as part of his job with a legal organization, offered Susan his knowledge and helped her get recording equipment. Susan also reached out to the San Diego Imperial Chapter to partner with her, and they jumped on board. In November 2020, they launched the podcast “Experiences in Caregiving: Personal Stories & Support for Caregivers.”
The podcast began with a library of 10 episodes, followed by a new show released every month. Susan acts as moderator, interviewing Alzheimer’s caregivers from across the country, but mostly the local community. The theme for each show largely comes from the questions that arise in Susan’s support group and her own experiences.
“I took all of the most frequently discussed topics from my support group and tried to reimagine them in podcast format,” Susan says. “I also think about the questions that I’m facing with my mom and my own caregiving journey.”
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The podcast covers topics ranging from how to decide if a loved one should move into a nursing home to the unique challenges of being a male caregiver. Susan tries to provide a balance between emotional discussions and practical subjects.
“We cover things like hygiene and nutrition — the day-to-day stuff,” she says. “But we also tackle the big issues, like grief and how your personal relationships are affected by being a caregiver.”
The safety precautions developed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic drove caregivers to seek and create new methods of support, says Mariam Schrage, senior associate director of Helpline Operations at the Alzheimer’s Association.
“The social isolation is overwhelming. For days, the only person you might interact with is the person you care for,” Schrage says. “You have no other outlet. That kind of isolation has a huge impact.”
Schrage says that over the past two years, she’s seen caregivers who are unable to connect in person adapt to virtual resources like podcasts and discover hidden benefits.
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“People can more easily attend an online support group or listen to a podcast when they are not hampered by time or travel,” Schrage says. “There’s also a privacy and anonymity aspect to it that puts people at ease.”
Play it again
Schrage encourages caregivers to seek out methods of support that fit their lifestyle during this time. “Podcasts like Susan’s really bring virtual caregiving resources to another level because you can listen anytime,” says Schrage. “With this full package, we can meet the needs of people where they are. It’s a wonderful piece of the puzzle.”
For Brenda and other listeners, the biggest advantage of the “Experiences in Caregiving” podcast may be the ability to revisit episodes when they need a boost.
“I often listen to the one about the mental anguish of caregiving,” Brenda says. “Sometimes I get stuck in my sadness and grief, and listening to the podcast takes me out of it. It’s a reminder that it’s normal to feel this way. That I’m not alone and that I’m OK, and I’m going to get through this. And there’s often laughter, too.”
To learn more about the “Experiences in Caregiving” podcast, or to become a guest, visit experiencesincaregiving.com.
Find these additional caregiving podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.
Happy Healthy Caregiver podcast
A show where real family caregivers share how to be happy and healthy while caring for others.
People with Parents podcast
Comedian and author Leighann Lord shares stories and insights about the role reversal between her and her aging parents.
Caregiver SOS On Air
Hosted by nationally recognized gerontologist Carol Zernial and veteran broadcaster Ron Aaron, this podcast explores issues important to caregivers.
ALZ: A magazine of the Alzheimer's Association
ALZ magazine shares inspiration and information about the fight to end Alzheimer’s — and offers tips on how to make your brain the focus of a healthy lifestyle. Want in on the next issue?Sign up here.