Caregiving has always been part of Grace Hanson’s life. Growing up, she watched her mother and sister take care of her grandmother, later on becoming a caregiver herself when her daughter was diagnosed with brain and spinal cord cancer. At her church, Hanson observed her fellow parishioners going to hospitals to be there for loved ones or staying at their homes more to support family members.
While these caregivers have been tending to their families, Hanson had a plan to provide care for them in return: Caring for the Caregiver. The program offers mental, emotional, and spiritual support through efforts like sending care packages and meals, and engaging in prayer to caregivers at the New Testament Church of God in Southwest Philadelphia. “It’s something I’ve always been passionate about,” said Hanson, an administrative assistant for CPUP Surgery. “I was that caregiver, and I still am a caregiver.”
Hanson officially launched Caring for the Caregiver at her church during a Sunday service earlier this year, presenting decorated gift baskets to the caregivers attending that morning’s mass. They were filled with self-care items, like body wash, mindfulness materials, and messages with prayers. Feeling surprised and appreciated, the selected parishioners told Hanson that they couldn’t believe the church had been thinking of them. “One church member expressed how thankful she felt to receive the basket, telling me how difficult and lonely being a caregiver can be,” Hanson said. For those unable to attend the mass, baskets were delivered to their homes.
Caring for the Caregiver also provides meals twice a week to caregivers’ households, offers virtual homework assistance for their children, and in the future, Hanson hopes to create a weekly exercise class to allow caregivers to stretch and take care of themselves physically.
“Caregivers are one population who don’t ask for help. They struggle and they don’t want to say they’re hurting,” Hanson said. “With the Penn Medicine CAREs grant, I know our program will go further, and we hope to inspire others to take action to support caregivers in their communities.”