“Taking Care,” Part 2

(Note: the following post will mostly be of interest to members of the South Wasco County , Oregon “community of care”:)

In October, a few members of the South Wasco County community who are primary caregivers to older, cognitively-impaired, or otherwise disabled family members, gathered at Canyon Wren Wellness Center for the first of two community wellness classes on the topic of “Taking Care.” It was a rich evening of support, ideas, and information-sharing. As one participant said, leaving, “My shoulders feel much lighter!”

A few more people attended the November class, and the response was similar: participants spoke about how helpful it was to receive information about specific medical conditions, community resources, specific strategies for care and self-care, and to share support and hope with others who understand the challenges and satisfactions of family caregiving. And everyone agreed about how good it was to be able to meet in our local community, when the demands of caregiving itself make it difficult to leave home for the time it takes to attend a group, much less the two hour round-trip involved in going to and from a group in, say, The Dalles.

When Steven Woolpert (behavioral health specialist at Deschutes Rim Clinic) and I initially planned the two-session “Taking Care” class, we had intended it to be just the two classes, but with the idea that if the interest was strong in continuing it, we would consider that, too.

Well, the interest was definitely strong! Everyone in the group was eager for it to continue, and several people said they planned to encourage other family caregivers they knew to go, based on their own positive experience. So, Steven and I have agreed to continue “Taking Care” as an ongoing, monthly information and support-sharing group for family caregivers.

Just as with our community wellness classes in the past, the group is open to anyone to join at anytime, and there is no charge to participate: the group will continue to be co-sponsored by Canyon Wren Wellness Center and Deschutes Rim Health Clinic as a community service, with Steven and I co-leading.

The next “Taking Care” group gathering will be on Tuesday, December 19 from 5:00-6:15 pm at Canyon Wren Wellness Center. So if you live in the South Wasco County community, and would like to be on the email list for information and reminders about the class (whether or not you plan to come), please let me know by leaving a message at 503-838-6144, or email  canyonwrenwellness@gmail.com, and I will be glad to add you to the list.

Deschutes River, Maupin. Photo by Kathi Ringo

And speaking of “taking care,” I can’t stop talking about how excited I am about the Deschutes Rim Clinic’s new facility fundraising campaign, and by the ways the community and the state legislature, both, are supporting its success! As you may already know, the fundraising dinner at the Wamic Community Center in November was an overwhelming success, with contributions from the community that evening exceeding even the most optimistic guestimate.

What that tells me in turn is that we as a community know how very, very special and crucial, both, the presence of high-quality, local health care is to the “well-being infrastructure” of our community.

When I was fresh out of training in the early 1980s, my first professional job was as a school social worker in Linn County, providing family and individual counseling and parent support services to kids and families in and beyond Lebanon and Sweet Home. Since there was only me, much of my work involved helping people connect with the community social services they needed. But while the need was huge, at that time local services simply did not exist, and (as in so many rural areas) access to services in the nearest cities was often a deal-breaker: parents, if they worked, could not get or could not afford to take the time necessary to drive the hour or so involved in getting to Albany, where county health and mental health services were located…and those who were unemployed could not afford the gas to get there. 

I did that work for seven years, and my experience resulted in a career-long dedication, in the 25 years since, to locating my own practice in the rural and small towns in which I have lived, instead of in whatever the closest city might be.

A little earlier, I spoke of how lucky we are to have “high quality local care” at Deschutes Rim, and I want to say that again: the primary care available at our local clinic is not only convenient, but it is really, really good. I know that for many of you reading this, I am telling you something you already know, but I am too impressed and too personally grateful not to say so for the sake of anyone who may not yet be aware of it! 

When we first moved to Maupin, my husband and I both established with primary care providers in The Dalles, in part because we didn’t know the community well yet, and because we moved here in the midst of some health issues requiring ongoing specialty care. So it seemed best at the time to just get all our healthcare in The Dalles. But we have both since transferred our primary care to Deschutes Rim, and we couldn’t be happier. Not only because we receive such excellent care nearby, but because it is a way also of “being there” for the services that we depend on, which in turn helps those services to continue to be there for all of us in this community.

In this season of giving, I hope each of us will think about how we might give an extra gift of our resources —money, time, or something else— to the community (the clinic or something else) that supports us each and all.

It’s all about taking care.