What is CALM CONNECTIONS?
In addition to a vibrant network, THRIVE is prioritizing your wellbeing. Caregivers need to be well, healthy, calm and responsive to in order to make important decisions, activate resources and participate in the connection and support available. In other words, how you thrive directly impacts how the person in your care will thrive.
CALM Connections is the cornerstone program of the THRIVE Network, making it possible to weave together key partners and organizations around the state to create a seamless stream of offerings throughout the entire care journey. At this time, THRIVE focuses specifically on dementia family caregivers.
CALM Connections is the only, continuous wellness-based training program for caregivers in Michigan and includes in person and virtual programs to enhance caregiver wellbeing, confidence, on-going self-management, healing and growth. In addition to regular content, CALM programs are a connector, providing continuity, practice and connection before, between and after the completion of other valuable, but time-limited, programs and training for family caregivers around the state. CALM is inspired by the Catching Your Breath (CYB) monthly program created in 2012 by Laura Rice-Oeschger for dementia family caregivers at the University of Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center (MADC). Laura has adapted CYB modules for sharing with a wider audience and taught by a variety of qualified health professionals.
In order to maintain wellbeing, we all need regular opportunities to revisit our commitments, evaluate our efforts, and the changing environment and circumstances which impact our ability to consistently apply and practice self-care strategies. The demands of caregiving and the potential for increased stress, not to mention the frequent unpredictable challenges, place additional burden on our commitment to personal wellbeing and self-care. In fact, it is often reported as the first thing to be dismissed when caregiving gets rough. Sadly, this is when we need our wellbeing and self-care to be front and center.
CALM programming, both implicitly and explicitly, provides a recurring invitation by engaging positive strategies and modeling healthy ways to recommit, again and again, to personal wellbeing. It is common to get stuck in judgement, self-criticism, guilt, fear and frustration when we feel we have abandoned our good intentions or have fallen from our pedestal of high standards or goals in the variety of activities and behaviors we emulate and hope to embody. Just what we need right? More stress!
CALM offers an opportunity to revisit, “drop in” and check-in on ourselves, offers us another invitation to adjust our expectations (often too demanding, possibly unrealistic) and redesign our plans for practical and consistent self-care. When we begin (and begin again) the healthy habit of recognizing our need to reassess, modulate, and renew our wellbeing approach has a better chance of staying rooted in our everyday experience and we are more likely to remain calm when obstacles arise. Obstacles are then included in our outlook rather than simply barriers to maintaining wellbeing overtime.
CALM programming is designed to practice in small bites, making practices available and accessible as a companion when we need them the most. Hundreds of caregivers have participated over the past many years providing the inspiration for additional locations and a virtual wellness programming. Here is what we have learned:
Committing to attend a monthly program in person or on line, creates a time just for you. This is a time for learning and practicing which opens the door for connecting with other caregivers and noticing all the ways in which we may be denying or delaying a moment of connection, peace or presence, for ourselves and with others. Most caregivers want to feel calm in the midst of change, challenge and attending to chores. There are the things we must do and the ways we respond to them make all the difference.
Allowing time for practicing CALM strategies gives us another avenue into our own experience by manage stress skillfully, purposefully partnering with what arises and holding the experience more lightly and confidently, even when the moment we encounter is quite difficult or unpleasant. When we are prepared and calm, we are far more likely to respond to stress in ways which do not create further distress. We are also more likely to notice valuable opportunities throughout the day to be well, to practice, revisit and adapt our personal commitments for wellbeing.
As intuitive as it sounds and as much as we may agree with this simplicity of prioritizing our wellbeing, it is among the hardest in life to put into practice. We attend a few programs, maybe a class which we find very helpful and then, a few months later, we stop. Sound familiar? Something or someone may cue us to begin again, but sadly, most programs for caregivers are less than 8 weeks and are not intended to be repeated.
CALM provides ongoing programming. This means, if you stop, CALM continues and you can jump back in at anytime. Life happens, caregiving is unpredictable and change is inevitable. We are committed to providing you will an easy ramp on and off the self-care and education highway and the opportunity to participate in a community that “gets it”, one you can rely on and hopefully, create meaningful connections you will enjoy and feel encouraged by along the way.