Frogs embrace caregiving, gain experience

A case study for a public relations class at TCU will end up meaning more than just a letter grade. For five students and one professor, it will be about putting into action a vision of making the lives easier for family caregivers in Fort Worth.Amiso George, associate professor and faculty adviser for TCU’s team, along with five students, first began working the case study for the 2006-2007 Bateman Case Study Competition in September.

The five students, senior Lydia Akinde, junior Kiersten Booren, junior Michelle Fabrega, junior Ashley Pierret and senior Alana Villegas, are all advertising and public relations majors and members of the Public Relations Society of America.

The case study for the competition this year is “Family Caregiving 101.”

In October 2004, the National Family Caregivers Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving, started the beginning of a campaign called, “Family Caregiving, it’s not all up to you,” which can be found on the PRSA Web site.

The program was launched in an effort to create awareness of the hard work and dedication it takes to be a caregiver. In most cases, caregivers feel isolated and experience stress from the burden of care giving itself, along with balancing work and other family responsibilities, according to the PRSA Web site.

Students will use the four principles of public relations in their case study: research, planning, implementation, evaluation. The principles were established by J. Carroll Bateman.

Bateman, who served as the president of PRSA and the International Public Relations Association, the competition was renamed after him following his death in 1983. Since then, the competition has been the most prestigious and challenging competition for public relations students, according to the PRSA Web site.

The students began collecting research on their case study last fall. Akinde, the team’s research coordinator explained some of the research that the team did.

“We first had to learn the history of family caregiving,” Akinde said. “Once we learned about family caregiving from research done, we then developed our own research on family caregivers in Fort Worth to bolster the findings and help our case study.”

The students also included the testimony of an actual caregiver in their research, Joyce Hammack said.

Hammack, 77, has been a family caregiver since her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2000. Hammack and her husband had to move into a retirement home shortly after because she could not give her husband constant care.

“It was 24/7,” Hammack said. “I needed help because he could not be left alone. I had to take him everywhere.”

Hammack does live in a retirement community that has family caregiving facilities, but said there were not many other places where she could get help.

The students also had to plan and implement a variety of events where they would communicate their message both professionally and effectively to their target audience.

“We first planned out a survey to help us find out who the caregivers in Fort Worth are,” said Booren, the special events coordinator. “We passed out our surveys at Albertsons, Walgreens and other pharmacies so that we could find exactly who the caregivers in fort worth are,” Booren said.

The surveys, which were coordinated by Villegas, gave the team what it was looking for.

“Alana’s survey’s revealed to us that the majority of caregivers in Fort Worth are Hispanic females,” Booren said.

Recently, the team implemented its message at a Feb. 23 soccer game at the Darena Sports Arena in Arlington.

“We called the event, “Kicks for Care”, Booren said. “We put up our booths and stayed for three games. We did a great job of reaching the right people.”

On top of that, the team also gave Fort Worth its evaluation of the current resources available for family caregivers.

“It was entirely up to the girls about creating a petition and going before the Fort Worth city council,” George said. “They put in such hard work and dedication and found that the caregivers in Fort Worth need help.”

The five students will present their petition to the Fort Worth City Council in April. City Council has not determined the exact date in April, Akinde said.

“They have really impressed me with their skills and their understanding of public relations,” said Carolyn Bobo, advertising and public relations adjunct professor and faculty adviser to the team. “They put together a great case study based on the four principles of public relations. I hope that the judges vote them the winner in on April 15.