Meet Our Editor-In-Chief
Read our interview with Caregiving.com Editor-in-Chief, Christina Best. Christina shares her background, inspiration, and vision for Caregiving.com now and in the future.
Tell us about your background and early career path. What university did you attend? What drew you to work in the caregiving space?
Christina Best: My professional background is in writing and digital marketing with a specialty in social media management. I attended the University of Mount Union where I received my B.A. in media studies. I attended Kent State University where I received my M.A. in media management. There was some flexibility in my master’s program, so in addition to my required coursework (including media law, ethics, and business) I was able to take some marketing courses and some non-journalism courses that focused on aging and older adulthood.
I was drawn to this, as so many are, after a personal experience with caregiving and loss. My mom was my dad’s primary caregiver for ten years, and my dad died my last semester of college from complications due to his Parkinson’s Disease. Going straight into graduate school after such a profound loss, my perspective on what I wanted to do with my life completely shifted. Reflecting on how alone and isolated I felt throughout this experience, I committed myself to helping people, like my mom and me, navigate caregiving and end-of-life experiences.
What inspired you to become Editor-in-Chief of Caregiving.com? Why do caregivers need a resource like Caregiving.com today?
Christina Best: This role marries my professional knowledge with my passion for caregiver support. In many ways, this really is my dream job. Having been formally trained in journalism, there’s a part of me that’s consistently drawn to relationship-building and storytelling. My hope, as I take on this new role, is to continue to amplify the experiences and expertise of our community of contributors and site users.
Caregiving.com has one of--if not the--largest libraries of caregiver stories on the Internet. Caregivers need a resource like our site because peer support is a crucial part of the care experience. So much comfort and healing can be found in the words of someone who’s been in your shoes. For example, a post about the detrimental impact of caring for an elderly parent on one’s health, written in 2014, continues to inspire meaningful discussion. Our bloggers don’t shy away from talking about the tough and uncomfortable stuff!
I’m reminded of a quote from Marie Bismark (taken from a Tweet), “The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed--to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.” Caregivers want to be heard. They want to know they’re not alone in the feelings and thoughts they’re having about their experience. Our community of professional and family caregivers bear witness to one another’s triumphs and struggles. They offer unparalleled peer support and companionship. And that’s something extraordinarily special.
Was there a particular event or experience that led to your interest working in this industry?
Christina Best: As I mentioned, my dad was living with Parkinson’s Disease. He was diagnosed in 2001 at 59-years-old. I was in middle school. My entire identity, from adolescence to young adulthood, was shaped by his illness--how I perceived what was happening to him and how others reacted to him. As his health declined, my mom took on an increasingly involved role as his primary caregiver. I remember thinking about how lonely and difficult caring for my dad was for my mom.
By the time I was in college, mobility was a daily struggle and he was showing signs of memory impairment. He experienced a permanent change to his cognition--particularly his short-term memory--after a stroke in 2008. He wasn’t the same after that. His health took another turn for the worse in the final months of 2010. My dad had developed a persistent cough and was diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia--a common complication of PD. At that time, we agreed as a family to forgo a feeding tube and enrolled him in hospice.
Even though the loss was anticipated, I was 21-years-old and--perhaps unsurprisingly--inadequately prepared to handle my dad’s death. These days, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to care for him at the end of his life and support my mom in making some difficult decisions, but at the time I was numb to what was happening. I had spent years distancing myself from my dad as he increasingly became defined by the symptoms and complications of his disease. And even though many of my friends and classmates did their best to support me, I didn’t feel like they truly understood what I was going through.
Thinking of some of the evolving challenges caregivers face today, how will Caregiving.com help address them?
Christina Best: Access to information remains a universal challenge in the caregiver support space. Some of that has to do with the sheer volume of information that’s out there and the way that information is presented. We will soon be launching a complete redesign for Caregiving.com that will keep the site experience clean and uncluttered. We realize that caregivers are often short of time, so our goal is to get people to the information they need as quickly and easily as possible.
This redesign will also include a comprehensive provider directory that people can access for free. Outside of conducting a Google search, many of the current senior care referral websites require a lot of personal information about the caregiver and care recipient to be disclosed before information is shared. So when a person wants to search for long-term care, senior living, caregiving support services, etc., they are often met with a barrage of sales calls and emails. This process also assumes that putting a loved one in senior living/care is the preferred outcome when that’s not necessarily the case. Our free search should help remove some of the pressure of making these decisions; it gives families the opportunity to find answers and information in their own time.
Finally, caregivers remain frustrated and disillusioned by the lack of communication and decision-making that includes them and their perspectives. There’s a feeling that they’re being talked at instead of with. My team has supported effective, two-way communication between families and providers with Carely Family and Carely Community. We will bring this same commitment to transparency and connection into the way we grow Caregiving.com. Ultimately, we want to give caregivers a sense of ownership and agency when browsing and interacting with our site.
What is your vision for Caregiving.com now and in the future?
Christina Best: Having delved into the site content these past few months, I’ve got a strong sense of what we have and what we need more of. First, the caregiver stories are so moving. Many have brought me to tears. It is important that we continue featuring these blogs and making it easy for people to share. Maintaining this authenticity in everything we do moving forward is a key part of our vision.
We will work to ensure that our site and its content is inclusive to all care experiences. Additionally, we want to be intentional in creating space for playfulness. After all, there are aspects of caring for someone that are either humorous or deserving of celebration.
In the near future, we are focused on making improvements to the navigation and search so that when people come to our site, they can quickly find the answers and information they’re looking for. Our vision for the long-term is to include more advice and guidance from caregiver experts, consultants, and thought leaders.
Is there anything else about you that you’d like the Caregiving.com community and readers to know?
Christina Best: People shouldn’t feel like they’re going through the caregiving and end-of-life experience alone. We want everyone to go into these experiences feeling confident about their ability to ask for and find help and have those necessary care conversations with loved ones. We are committed to acting as a conduit between caregivers and the people and organizations that support them. We are also committed to providing unobstructed access to the information and resources they need to prepare for and provide care.
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