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Caregiver Specialist Heather Resnick on Caregiver Support

July 09, 2018

Heather Resnick, MA, caregiver specialist, has worked at North Shore Senior Center for more than 11 years. Her average case load holds steady at about 60 clients at a given time. As a caregiver specialist, she provides support for people who serve as caregivers for family members. In addition to visiting people in their homes to assess their needs, Heather facilitates group support through the Center’s weekly Parkinson’s Caregiver Support Group, general caregiver workshops and no-cost, one-on-one supportive counseling. She also approves respite services for all of the case managers at North Shore Senior Center’s Northfield location. “Respite care is so important for family members caring for a loved one. One of my main goals is to keep people feeling supported so they don’t burn out,” she said. 

We sat down with Heather to learn more about caregiver services . . . 

Your job must come with some challenges. Can you share some of your most challenging situations? 

An ongoing challenge is getting people to accept that they need help and that they don’t need to do it all alone. There is a level of guilt for many people to admit they need help caring for a loved one. One of my jobs is to help family caregivers understand that it’s not a sign of weakness to accept help. On the contrary, it takes strength and courage to admit you need help. Family caregivers also experience a lot of guilt when they need to make the decision to move a loved one into a nursing home or when a family member dies. I counsel them on how to handle their grief and provide them with resources to help them find their way after losing someone who they’ve taken care of for a long time. 

What’s the most gratifying aspect of your work? 

Caregivers are generous, compassionate people, and they all have unique stories. I love my one-on-one time with them and knowing I’m making a positive change in their lives. They are most appreciative. A client once told me that the respite she receives literally changed her life. Knowing that means a lot to me. 

What has been one of your most rewarding experiences? 

I had a client whose husband had dementia. She was resistant to respite and didn’t trust that he would get the same level of care she provided. Then, she had a medical issue, so I arranged for emergency respite and helped get him into a nursing home while she was recovering. She soon recognized he was being taken care of and he was doing well. After that, she realized she couldn’t have cared for him alone forever. Respite gave her a peace of mind and, after that, she used respite services on a regular basis. 

Tell us about the caregiver workshops you facilitate.

I, along with my counterpart in the Niles Senior and Family Services office, Ben Ellenson, run a series of workshops designed specifically for caregivers. Some past workshop topics have included teaching caregivers effective communication techniques, coping with grief and loss, and learning the importance of self-care for the caregiver. We’ve got some upcoming workshops scheduled for this summer and fall that I hope people will attend. They can be of great help to those caring for others.

Heather lives in Arlington Heights with her husband of 31 years, and they have two adult children. 

To learn more about the Center’s programs for caregivers, visit our website at www.nssc.org and click on the Family Caregiver Support tab under Senior & Family Services.