Caregivers on the Front Lines | Michigan Radio

Caregivers on the Front Lines

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These stories are produced through the New York & Michigan Solutions Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations and universities dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about successful responses to social problems. The group is supported by the Solutions Journalism Network. If you have story tips, email Karen Magnuson ( of the Solutions Journalism Network or Tracy Samilton ( at Michigan Radio.

The collaborative’s first series, Invisible Army: Caregivers on the Front Lines, focuses on potential solutions to challenges facing caregivers of older adults.

Overstressed and unpaid, 1.3M in Michigan care for relatives amid aging crisis

Jun 11, 2021

JACKSON ─ As is her habit, Cathy Moore called out as she made her way through the kitchen toward the living room where her mother lay in a hospital bed.

“Hey, Puddin’, how are we today?” she asked, using her nickname for 92-year-old Willie Mae Dunlap, whose eyes fluttered in recognition of her daughter’s arrival.

Moore and her brother, Melvin Moore, who have spent much of their lives since 2018 caring for their mother in her Jackson home despite a progressive form of palsy that’s claimed her mobility inch by inch.

Excellacare Care Provider Sarah Sutherlin helps her client Carmela Palamara, 92, of Brownstown stand up to stretch her legs after the two color and play a game of UNO at Palamara's home on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.
Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press

Updated:  05/07/2021

Misty Evans stands in her client Ric’s living room in Midland, helping him pick out a record to play on the turntable.

Sarah Sutherlin and Carmela Palamara
Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press

When ‘om’ can help you take care of Mom: Meditation, mindfulness useful tools for many caregivers

Apr 1, 2021
Kathie Gansemer uses breathing exercises to incorporate mindfulness into her nature walks. She says using such practices helps her with the stress she sometimes feels as a caregiver to her parents.
Max Schulte / WXXI News

Kathie Gansemer concentrates on her breath first.

Slow, steady breaths.

Then, perhaps, she recites an inspirational quote or a poem to set the mood. One of her favorites is from the 13th-century Persian poet, Rumi. It encourages the reader to welcome even the most disturbing thoughts and emotions as a potential means to clear the way for an unexpected delight.

Then, focus.

Michigan caregivers got a $2 hourly boost in COVID. Should it be permanent?

Mar 25, 2021
Daytona Niles / Bridge Michigan

The sweet moments pop up in everyday tasks — a walk in the surprisingly warm winter sun, or silly smiles over a dinner plate. They’re what keep Holly VanVolkinburg coming back to a job she’s now held for 22 years.

But in a profession where starting pay is just over $11 an hour to help people with developmental disabilities, it’s tough for workers to cover groceries, lighting and heat bills, a mortgage or a car payment.

She’s lucky, she said.

Caregivers are in short supply due to a rapidly growing older population that is living longer and requiring more assistance. The caregivers who step up, both family members and those who are paid to do the job, face many physical, emotional and financial challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

As Michigan ages, a shortage in health care workers explodes into a crisis

Feb 5, 2021
a home healthcare worker helps an elderly woman walk down a hallway
Chris duMond / Detroit News

Living alone in a Grand Rapids apartment, 84-year-old Nancy Klomparens clings to her independence — and has the injuries to show for it.

Poor eyesight contributed to a series of falls, as she said she’s fractured her back five times in the past four years. Once a week, she depends on a home care worker to drive her to the grocery store and help with shopping and other chores.

Innovation, bonuses may help curb Michigan’s home health care shortage

Feb 5, 2021
a caregiver hands a newspaper to her charge
Craig Ruttle / Detroit News

Like home care agencies across the country, New York City’s Cooperative Home Care Associates faced a nagging challenge: How to hire and retain quality direct care workers?

Starting small, in 1985, the agency has become a nationwide model for what experts nationwide say is a burgeoning crisis in home health workers. From an initial staff of 12 home health aides, it now employs more than 2,000. And unlike the vast majority of home care agencies, it’s employee-owned: Workers have the option of buying into the company.