Road Scholar Offers Caregiver Grants Nationwide
Sue Olsen, 60, of Dubuque, Iowa, knows firsthand the physical, emotional and financial toll it takes to serve as a primary caregiver for a loved one. As an only child, she took on the responsibility of caring for her aging mother, Del.
Del had been diagnosed in her late 70s with Parkinson’s with dementia. Her health deteriorated to the point where she and her husband had to move closer to Sue in 2009. Del’s husband died in 2012 and the she suffered a stroke in 2013.
She had been a resident in assisted living for a year when Sue came to a crossroad. Juggling work, getting her mother to doctor’s appointments and helping her complete simple tasks, such as turning on the TV, Sue realized that her mother needed more care than assisted living could provide. It was a nursing home or Sue’s home. In 2014, Sue moved Del into her condo.
Thinking that this would be her last hurrah until her mother died, Sue researched Road Scholar, a national not-for-profit educational travel organization for adults. She registered for a hiking adventure to Italy and embarked on her first international travel experience. She knew it would be difficult to leave once she was caring for her mother full-time.
According to Caregiving in the United States 2015, published by the AARP Public Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 43 million Americans provided unpaid care to an adult last year. More and more, baby boomers are responsible for caring for their aging parents. Many are still working or taking care of their own children. Others are forced to retire early in order to manage the long hours and the emotional and physical challenges of being the primary caregiver.
“This kind of experience has been a gift to me and to my mother,” Sue says. “It offered a break and an opportunity to travel. I met great people who I keep in touch with and it rejuvenated me – and I want to do it again. Other people want to go to museums — not for me. I want to be active and moving while I’m learning. I wanted to be on hiking programs with interesting people of similar age.”
Sue recently applied for and was awarded a Caregiver Grant to travel last spring to Hiking Arizona’s Marble Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs: Off-the-Beaten Path. To provide care for her mother at home in her absence, Sue hired a respite care service that she also uses when she needs to take time for herself to run errands, exercise, socialize or visit her son in Chicago.
“When I’m on a Road Scholar trip, I don’t have to decide anything,” Sue says. “In my life as a caregiver and before that, a manager, I always had to be in charge. I’m ever so grateful to put those duties aside because the program staff are so incredibly competent (and fun). It’s an escape.”
Road Scholar offers up to $1,300 grants for caregivers, aged 50 and older, for U.S.-based educational programs.
The Caregiver Grant reduces cost barriers to participating in a learning adventure. It is available to any family caregiver who wishes to experience the joys of educational travel. While the caregivers often travel solo, many form lasting bonds and develop much-needed camaraderie with people they meet along the way. In Arizona, Sue was joined by a friend she met on her Road Scholar hiking adventure to Sicily in 2015.
Road Scholar is the nation’s largest not-for-profit educational travel organization for adults. It offers 5,500 extraordinary educational adventures in 150 countries and 50 states for individuals dedicated to lifelong learning. Participants are immersed in a variety of experiential learning activities, enlisting world-renowned faculty and local experts who offer insider access not available to most individuals. Click to learn more about Road Scholar. If you are a caregiver or know of one who is interested, click to apply for a Caregiver Grant.