Celebrating the "What is a Caregiver" Campaign

7/1/13 by Kirsten Johnson

On June 25, the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation hosted a celebration thanking community organizations and members for their part in making the What is a Caregiver campaign a successful one. Wilder's Kirsten Johnson, Community Leadership Manager, and Caitlin Marlotte, tpt Next Avenue Manager, reflect on the campaign and look to the future of caregiver services:

Kirsten Johnson: I still remember many of the conversations that were the genesis of our What is a Caregiver awareness campaign. Conversations about why those caregiving for our elders–who we know are struggling, often to the point of chronic illness and depression–weren’t utilizing the services available to support them. What were the barriers? How could we do a better job of reaching out? I remember the initial Start Seeing Caregivers tagline that my colleague proposed. The idea of caregivers as superheroes that one of our collaborators suggested. And I remember the feeling that we were stepping out on a limb, innovating, risk taking, when we proposed to a potential funder that if we truly wanted to transform caregiver services we had to start by raising awareness...in a big way.

Since that time, our collaboratively developed awareness campaign–www.whatisacargiver.org–has resulted in 1.6 million media impressions and over 17,000 visits to the webpage we created to link caregivers to services and support.

The power of our campaign is in its simplicity and focus: increasing caregiver self-identification.

The campaign is designed to help caregivers understand that they while their relationship of son, daughter, brother or wife remains intact – they are now playing a new role, wearing a new hat – they are doing the work of caregiving.

The early conversations we had with our collaborative partners have been amplified and affirmed as we have gone out into the community and asked caregivers what they need. I can honestly say that I have never been at a gathering of caregivers where someone has not said “people don’t know about the support that is out there, the problem is that we need to raise awareness.”

The importance of this work and the impact of our campaign was also affirmed this year when our collaboration received two awards. The first was an Innovation Award presented to us by Aging Services of Minnesota; the second was a national award presented by the Family Caregiver Alliance and the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation for Policy & Advocacy.

On June 25, we brought together our collaborative partners to celebrate these awards and the impact of the campaign. The enthusiasm, hope and optimism in the room were overwhelming. As we each shared what it has meant to us to be a part of this project, I was reminded that when you build your work through genuine relationships your impact on the real lives of people is inevitable.

And our impact is only growing. Through dissemination of a Tool Kit CD that shares all of the artwork we created for the campaign, partners near and far are using the campaign in their efforts to raise awareness. Minnesota’s ACT on Alzheimer’scollaborative is using the campaign to reach caregivers, as are organizations as far away as Hawaii, Guam and Idaho – like Friends in Action, Boise.

This summer we are thrilled to be working in partnership with the Minnesota Board on Aging, Minnesota’s network of Area Agencies on Aging and tpt to launch a full scale media effort sharing the campaign across Greater Minnesota!

The ever expanding impact of this work is a direct result of collaboration. Our list of collaborative partners continues to grow, but I cannot thank our founding partners enough:

Caitlin Marlotte: I’m honored that tpt can be a part of Wilder Foundation’s “What is a Caregiver?” campaign. Together, we’ve been developing a series of interstitials slated to begin appearing on tpt channels this August. In this partnership, tpt plays the role of collaborator and amplifier for a critical and timely message Minnesotans need to hear–that caregiving is a tough job, and we can access community resources and rely on one another to help provide care.

A service of tpt, Next Avenue incorporates in-depth information and new perspectives on caregiving and other topics. To read more, visit nextavenue.org/caregiving.