How Caregivers Can Continue to Learn

By Faith Unger, M.Ed., Program Director of CaregiverU

September is traditionally thought of as the back to school month. Just saying that phrase, “back to school,” evokes a ton of special memories—new clothes, new school supplies, and new things to learn.

What if caregivers could begin a new school year?  Learn something new totally unrelated to caregiving? What a concept! What a soul feeder! The thought intrigues many a caregiver, but that thought is usually followed by another—no time for that luxury.

But wait a minute! There are numerous ways to meet that quest for new learning. Let’s explore a few that could be done during a few hours of regular respite care, during a longer time of carefully planned respite care, or during those special moments in the schedule when the care recipient is otherwise occupied as in sleep time.

Museums. Many museums have free days, so that cuts the cost—and if there is no cost, one feels freer to have a short stay!  And National Museum Day is Sunday, September 23, 2018, when you can enjoy free access to exhibits and activities at Austin-area museums (more info at

Libraries. Is there a topic from the museum or the news that one wishes to learn more about? The library is a treasure trove of information with books on a variety of topics. Checking out the books and bringing them home allows for reading during the short snippets of free time.

Lectures. Local colleges and universities offer a plethora of learning events. Some of those events are one time lectures on a specific topic. Watch for announcements of these in the local media, research on the college web site under events, or just call the college.

Courses. Free online courses from noted universities,  Since these are online, the course work can be done at whatever time works best for the caregiver—for example, while a care recipient is attending a respite program.

Television. Public broadcasting and Discovery both have wonderful shows on a variety of topics. Checking out the schedule ahead of time will allow one to either plan for respite at that particular time or, if one has the equipment, to record a show and watch it when the opportunity presents itself.

TED talks. TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. These are prerecorded ten minute talks that one can access on a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

Road Scholar. Road scholar trips are group trips planned and organized to provide learning about places, people, history, events, and things. The planning provided is done with older adults in mind, and the activity level is always clearly stated. Trips are available all year round and include destinations throughout the world—including those close to home. The costs vary, and there are scholarships for caregivers.

The learning can be enriched by sharing with another person. It may not be possible for an individual to physically do it with another person, but perhaps two or more can do the same learning activity and talk about it through telephone calls, text messages, or e mail messages. That can open up even more learning!

September can be a back to school time even for caregivers! What syllabus will you plan this year?

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