Our speaker, Paula Hudson, comes from the Maritime Provinces of Canada. She was born and raised in Newfoundland and graduated from the University of Prince Edward Island.  She immigrated to the US in 1994 and lived and worked in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  In 2008 she moved to Savannah and began volunteering with Hospice Savannah.
She created the Steward Companion Program, a free community resource available to those facing a life limiting illness but not suited to hospice services. In 2013 she began working on the creation of a Caregiver Institute, designed exclusively for the unpaid, unprepared, untrained family caregiver. This institution, the first of its kind in the US, opened as the Edel Caregiver Institute in September 2015; it has already received national recognition. It is located off Chatham Parkway in Chatham County in a handsome building dedicated to its purpose.

Paula quoted Rosalyn Carter. “There are four kinds of people in the world:
  • Those who have been caregivers
  • Those who currently are caregivers
  • Those who will be caregivers
  • Those who need caregivers  "

There are 40 million unpaid caregivers; surveys indicate that 80% feel they need more information and support. The Edel Caregiver Institute offers classes that focus on their needs. Paula’s presentation showed us their classes offering hands-on training, with “dummies” used to illustrate such necessities as lifting, moving, assisting with getting from one place to another. The institute offers support groups, disease specific classes, and instruction in how to communicate with doctors, manage legal and financial affairs, Medicare/Medicaid requirements. Help is available from the Institute to anyone who views themselves as a caregiver; classes and resources are offered to individuals at no cost. The classes are taught by those best qualified: ASU School of Health staff, pharmacists, St.Joseph’s/Candler staff, financial counselors, yoga/meditation specialists, Mercer Medical School residents – all are volunteers. There are beneficiaries beyond those who administer to the sick; employers benefit too. Of the current caregivers in our society, some 60% are employed; they are caring for children and/or aging parents or relatives as well as holding a full time job. Companies who offer support and understanding to these caregivers are rewarded by a lower employee turnover rate, increased employee loyalty (and not only from the employees directly affected) and appreciation from those seeking employment with them. This translates to the bottom line in a company’s finances and also to its public image, which further affects positively its stock position.

For employers specifically, the Edel Caregiver Institute offers information and training to Company Management and to a company’s Human Resources personnel. It will provide caregiving training to those employees who need it, and meet individually with employees who wish to do so. Workshops and training are offered on-site. Grief counseling is also offered. Donations to the Institute are accepted and appreciated, but are not a condition of assistance to individuals.
Below is a picture of Paula and President Tom.