Certified Facilitator Spotlight: Ruth Galicia-Lopez

Editor’s note: Ruth Galicia-Lopez trained under Engagement Coordinator Kathy Hawkins in 2021, finishing her certification earlier this year. An individual with a passion for working with older adults and a thoughtful advocate for creative aging, Ruth has been a caregiver for over 15 years. She has worked with a wide array of individuals of all ages and capacities. Over the years, she learned “that I have a passion for older individuals and for the people who provide care for them.” Ruth recently graduated with a Human Services Generalist Associate’s degree and my Gerontology Certificate. She plans to continue her education, both through experience volunteering and working with Clackamas County and by attending school to get her degree in social work. She would love to see a future where aging is no longer stigmatized and people are given the respect and dedication that they deserve both as caregivers and as aging individuals.

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TimeSlips: You’ve been working with community members through the Connections Cafe in Clackamas County. What are the needs that family members of loved ones with Dementia are needing right now?

Ruth: At this time they are seeking ways to find connection and support during the pandemic. Caregivers are seeking information and insight in to the progression of their loved one’s condition and the resulting routine changes. Caregivers are also seeking support regarding their changing role in the caregiver/care partner relationship. And as always the family members and caregivers in our community are seeking methods and education on how to best support and promote the best quality of life for their care partners with dementia and memory care needs.

TimeSlips: You have a background with the county, first as an intern, and now as a volunteer. What are some of the frustrations you see for individuals who are in the Spanish-speaking community? What other communities does Clackamas County hope to reach through their creative engagement?

Ruth: I think that some of the frustrations I have seen are the connections to the community based on language and cultural barriers and the lack of available enjoyable community resources that are targeted for their language and culture. I also think that there is a lot of fear and apprehension that both the County and the Spanish-speaking community have to overcome to connect. Clackamas County has been expanding their services to be inclusive of all languages and community members, including hiring bilingual staff and creating multilingual forms and applications. They have an Equity and inclusion group that works hard to expand how we serve all people in our community. The Family Caregiver Support Program of Clackamas County is currently in the process of creating a Spanish-Speaking Connections Café. We hope that it will be a bridge to creating relationships with our Spanish-speaking community members by building a fun and creative connection. If they can see that there are resources out there for them, they will be more likely to connect with us, allowing us to build more resources that suit their particular needs.

TimeSlips: What is one beautiful thing you’ve noticed in your own life as a result of training in TimeSlips? How does it shape your interactions at home and other areas of your life?

Ruth: I love that creativity is fostered with TimeSlips. Using our imagination can improve even the worst situations. I feel that TimeSlips has given me permission to use my imagination and foster the use of imagination with the people I serve. I enjoy creating stories with my client. I think it’s been really useful in my life with my kids, family, and client outside of Clackamas County to break some of the stress and boredom that we are experiencing during the pandemic.

TimeSlips: What are some of the comments you have had from participants in your connections program?

Ruth: Two of the couples that are regular attendees have told us how much fun they had and how attending has brought joy and laughter to them and their partners.

TimeSlips: If you could make any food for your family that was a favorite, what would you make?

Ruth: I always get requests for my Posole. Posole is a soup that has pork or chicken, hominy, and chiles blended to create a broth. We top it with cilantro, onions, oregano, and lime. My family loves to eat it with tostadas (toasted tortillas), sour cream spread on top and cabbage. Posole is a big comfort food for my whole family and has been for generations. I learned the recipe from my mom and it always takes me to the joy of big family gatherings with all my aunties and cousins. 

TimeSlips: What exactly is your Connections Cafe, and how has it been of use during the pandemic? How do you see it growing?

Ruth: As aging services professionals and as caring humans we love to provide this opportunity for emotional and artistic connection between caregivers, their care Partners and ourselves. Our connections café is about pressure free fun and building a community of support. We plan to continue to offer the connections café online and hope to be able to offer it in other languages and eventually in person. In the meantime we accommodate the restrictions the people we serve are feeling due to the pandemic by sending out café kits with cookies and tea and providing a space for them to relax and enjoy themselves for a while.  

TimeSlips: As someone who speaks English and another language, what is one barrier to services for those who don’t speak English as a primary way of communicating? How can TimeSlips embrace that?

Ruth: I think the biggest barrier would be availability and accessibility. It takes a lot to create content in multiple languages. There is always that fear that it would all be done and you won’t be able to connect to a community that speaks a different language. But when it is done you see that there is someone out there that has an option that they did not have before. I think it would be interesting to use pictures that have significant cultural meaning. I also think having the option to do trainings in other languages and facilitators that want to create with storytellers who speak other languages. It can be a hard process to translate but it is worth it.