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FCA: Not Your Sound-Bite Organization

I am often asked for a quick and easy answer to what Family Caregiver Alliance does – a brief explanation that can fit into an elevator ride. The simplest response is our mission: To improve the quality of life for family caregivers through services, advocacy, research and education. This has been our charge for more than 30 years. But how we fulfill our mission has changed during that time. Here is a brief summary of our current activities:

Caregivers First: FCA Plan of Action 2010-2011

Use Best Practice: FCA will continue to use best practice programs to improve caregiver well-being in every area of our direct support programs from how we answer the phone to conducting a caregiver assessment to mediating family conflict to holding stress reduction workshops. We review trends and research on caregiver interventions, risk factors, new program developments and demographics as well as our own service data to change priorities in practice or focus for educational activities. We use feedback from families from our evaluation questionnaires. Yes, we read all those evaluation forms and the comments too. We get many of our best ideas from family caregivers.

One Simple Question: Are You a Caregiver?(sm): We advocate for family caregivers to be recognized and assessed for their own needs within the health and social service systems. We don’t think service systems should wait for caregivers to “self-identify”. Service systems should be proactive and ask the question on health forms on medical visits, during health and social assessments for services for your relative, partner or friend or when using a community information and assistance service.

Be At The Table: Numerous federal initiatives such as health reform, workforce development programs and caregiver support services for Veterans have included family caregivers as key partners or service recipients. Once the spotlight of public attention has waned after these intensive legislative efforts, the hard work of writing the operational policies begins. As an agency experienced in developing care systems and a voice for family caregivers, FCA is “at the table” representing the best interests of those who provide the majority of long term care in the country. As they say, the devil is in the details.

Create Caring Communities: As the Technical Assistance Center on Caregiver Programs for the U.S. Administration on Aging, FCA continues to seek out and share experience-based and informed practices for the states and community program developers. Sharing expertise across the country, networking programs and experts together helps to build caring communities. We all know that isolated caregivers burn out faster. We need to build that “village” it takes to support that caregiver – one family care system, one supportive service, one integrated community system at a time.

Yes, FCA is not a sound-bite organization. But family caregiving is a complex system crossing personal and public boundaries and systems. As we move forward in our new fiscal year, we will come back to blog on our activities and hopefully, many successes towards improving the quality of life for family caregiver and those for whom they care.