“… caregivers benefit from accessing services and support as early as possible in in their caregiving journeys.”
Karen Marshall, JD
Kadamba Tree Foundation
What is your position?
I am the founder and Executive Director of the Kadamba Tree Foundation, a nonprofit organization that offers education and support programs to family caregivers. We serve family and friend caregivers of aging loved ones and other loved ones with long-term illnesses or disabilities.
Is there something in your own personal story that led you to do the work you do?
I was my mom’s primary caregiver before she died of cancer. A couple of months after she died, my father developed a serious heart condition. I eventually ended up leaving my career as an attorney at a large law firm to help care for him.
Although I was very close to both of my parents, I found that the circumstances surrounding their illnesses posed unique caregiving challenges. I also discovered that, in each instance, self-care was vital to effectively caring for my loved ones; so I embarked on a journey to learn how to effectively care for myself while caring for others.
That journey took me to India where I came across a necklace made from the wood of the Kadamba tree. A note attached to the necklace explained that, according to Sanskrit literature, the Kadamba tree blossoms at the sound of monsoon thunder. This story immediately reminded me of the resilience of family caregivers who often overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges to help their loved ones. Today, this symbol of hope and empowerment inspires not only Kadamba Tree Foundation’s name, but also its mission.
What do you love most about your outreach work?
I love facilitating partnerships. Whether it’s programming partnerships between organizations or comradery between fellow support group members, I enjoy bringing people and groups together to advance the caregiving mission. Despite the amount of love involved, caregiving can be very isolating. I like to think that every collaboration helps to counter at least some of that isolation.
What is the biggest challenge in what you do?
People are increasingly acknowledging the role that family caregivers play in providing the majority of our nation’s long-term care. But many family caregivers don’t necessarily realize that they’re not alone and that it’s okay to ask for help. Often, they don’t seek support or resources until they are already overwhelmed and suffering negative health consequences.
That’s why we’re always searching for resources and partnerships to help us make a positive impact on caregivers’ lives. We also look for effective ways to convey the message that family caregivers benefit from accessing services and support as early as possible in their caregiving journeys.
What do you see as the biggest health concerns in the communities you serve?
Family caregivers often experience social isolation. I worry about the impact that isolation has on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Specifically, I’m concerned that family caregivers who experience isolation lack sufficient access to preventative care, treatment, and other resources to maintain healthy lifestyles.
How did you first come to know NN/LM SE/A?
I met an outreach librarian from the National Library of Medicine at a Caregiver Day event. Kadamba Tree was there to teach stress management practices and hosted a booth across from NLM’s booth. During a break, the outreach librarian told me about NLM’s resources for caregivers. We later became affiliate members of NN/LM SE/A.
In what ways has NN/LM SE/A been of help to you?
Our mission includes equipping family caregivers with tools and resources to assist them in their roles. Those roles include responsibility for medication management, communicating with health care providers, and ensuring continuity of care once loved ones are discharged from skilled care facilities. Thanks to NN/LM SE/A, we can direct family caregivers to reliable health information resources to help them in their caregiving roles.
Can you share a success story about the impact of health outreach in your community?
We recently presented the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving’s “Caring for You, Caring for Me” Education and Support Program for Professional and Family Caregivers to a local caregiver support group. The multi-workshop series covered caregiving skills such as taking care of yourself, building cooperative relationships, and problem solving. We also adapted the program to include a workshop featuring tutorials on NLM’s health information resources. At the end of the program, the support group members applied the skills they learned and NLM resources (e.g., DailyMed, MedlinePlus) to a case study involving a caregiver facing an issue with medication management.
The support group members were highly engaged and eager to work together to solve the problem. They not only demonstrated the ability to apply the skills and resources they had obtained, but also recounted how they had already started integrating the skills into their own lives. For instance, one participant used the program’s self-care assessment tool to initiate needed diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. At the end of the four-week series, he reported that he was already feeling more energetic and experiencing a greater sense of well-being. He also identified specific ways he planned to use NLM resources such as MedlinePlus to sustain his self-care practices.
What advice would you give others who are interested in doing health outreach work in their communities?
Seeking out strategic partners for program collaboration is vital for successful outreach. These include both funding and programming partners. Such partnerships can help you leverage your and your partners’ collective resources to expand the program’s impact.
For family caregiver outreach in particular, I recommend developing programs that meet caregivers where they are. Being prepared to adapt programs and resources to their needs can improve your chances of making a meaningful impact on caregivers’ well-being.
Learn more about the Kadamba Tree Foundation by visiting: http://www.kadambatree.org/.
If you would like to share your story or suggest another person for our “Inspiring People” feature, please email Nancy Patterson, Community Outreach Coordinator at: email@example.com.