James Madison University

GTE Grant: The Life of a Caregiver Simulation Project

Congratulations to Dr. Merle Mast, Dr. Erica Metzler-Sawin and Kathleen Pantaleo  who received a Geriatrics Training Education Initiative Grant to create a new simulation.

For nearly ten years Caregivers Community Network has trained students to provide respite and companion care for frail older adults through an elective service learning course, Issues and Applications of Family Caregiving. To fully benefit from this learning experience, students enrolled in this course need to learn why the respite and companion care services they provide are so important.  A project funded by the Virginia Geriatric Training Initiative will create a simulation that allows students to “walk in the shoes” of a caregiver and to experience firsthand the emotional, physical, social, and financial challenges of caregiving.  Within the safety of a simulated environment students will make choices about caring for an aging relative, and utilize the complex and sometimes poorly coordinated network of health and human services that caregivers and their families must navigate. Within these real-life scenarios, students will choose from a variety of next-steps and problem-solving options.  This active, engaged form of learning is a powerful way to enhance student understanding of issues of aging, caregiving, and available community services.  Students will immediately apply what they learned to their visits with families. This experience will inform their career choices in health and human service professions. The project will serve to strengthen CCN’s ability to simultaneously meet the needs of three groups—caregivers in need of respite, frail care recipients who benefit from fresh ideas and the stimulation of contact with enthusiastic young people, and students in need of intergenerational, “hands-on” learning experiences.