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'We suffer in silence': 2 caregivers providing training to healthcare workers

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Posted at 10:05 PM, Jan 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 23:24:31-05

CLEVELAND — Taking care of a loved one with disabilities often takes a toll on caregivers. It’s a struggle that’s overlooked many times and can even lead to more stress and health issues for those caregivers.

News 5’s Courtney Gousman talked to two local mothers who know the feeling firsthand, and are now offering free training for healthcare workers, so those workers can in turn, offer aid to those caregivers.

It’s been Patricia Parker’s full-time job, for the past 32 years.

She’s the sole caregiver for her son, Matthew, who has autism.

Parker says in the 90s she was thrust into a world she knew nothing about, trying to figure out the best way to care for her son with special needs.

“I found myself in my community not having the resources available within my own community and I had to navigate outside of my community, which was really tough because there weren't many individuals of color,” Parker said.

She said not seeing any providers that looked like her created the added stress of having to explain cultural differences.

After years of advocating for Matthew, Parker found herself in need of care.

“I was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. Did not get any treatment. Did not get any supports. For years, continuing to navigate as his caregiver, until I start experiencing panic attacks. I thought I was having a heart attack,” Parker said.

A similar story is true for Salina Miller after her son, Elijah, was diagnosed with autism, at 13.

Miller told News 5 she struggled to find professionals who looked like her, that could assist her, or even understand her journey.

“A lot of the times we go to these different places who don’t know how to service us and that’s another let down in this journey of raising our children.” Miller said.

Miller says the added stress led to her diagnosis of anxiety disorder.

“I look at my therapists, my counselors, as part of my support system,” she said.

Knowing the challenges many Black families face, both mothers created nonprofits for those struggling in the autism world.

Parker founded Resource Education and Community Health Service, or REACH, in 2013.

Miller started Mother 2 Mother in 2017.

“I wanted to support families of color and I just wanted to make sure that they would have the support and information,” Parker said.

Now, the two caregivers and friends have come together to offer a free training session to behavioral health workers, like therapists, social workers, counselors, and psychologist in order to teach these healthcare workers how to offer assistance to Black caregivers responsible for loved ones with autism.

“I just think that it’s important for even us a minority caregivers to be able to work with those who understand the culture. The background. Just our day to day lives,” Miller said.

Parker told News 5 the needs of caregivers are often neglected, and caregivers need their own advocates as they work to take care of loved ones with disabilities.

She goes on to say, “Many times we suffer in silence.”

The training is in partnership with Milestones Autism Resources — The ADAMHS Board.

Beth Thompson, program director for Milestones, told News 5, “We want more providers that we can refer families to. That we feel that we can trust. That are going to meet their needs and meet them where they’re at and not cause further trauma to that caregiver and family.”

If you’re a behavioral health professional, particularly one of color, the training is set for Wednesday, Jan. 25 at Renaissance Church in Warrenville Heights. The session runs from 10 A.M. to noon and educational credits are being offered.

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To register for the free training, click here.

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