When he was 14, Ramesh was in a near-fatal car accident. His father, Francis Azariah, who was in the car with him, saved his life by administering CPR and first aid, allowing him to survive despite the brain trauma and other injuries he sustained when he was catapulted from the vehicle.
After college, Ramesh became a first aid and CPR instructor for the Red Cross. In 2002, he and his father founded the nonprofit All Care Plus in Palo Alto. All Care Plus currently provides classes in CPR, first aid, child care and adult care. Some of the class material is drawn from the Red Cross curriculum Ramesh used to teach, but he has expanded on the material based on his own experiences as a caregiver for his grandmother, who had Alzheimer's, and his father, who developed several serious illnesses during the last 10 years of his life.
"One aspect of caregiver training that is often overlooked is teaching caregivers how to take care of themselves," Ramesh explains. "Many caregivers burn out since they put so much energy into looking after the needs of the patient or loved one that they neglect their own needs for nutrition, exercise and relaxation. As a result, their health begins to degrade and they may become short-tempered or overweight.
"Our goal is to alert caregivers to these factors so they can recognize them and take steps to take care of themselves, too."
To address this concern, All Care Plus has added a "caring for the caregiver" module to its caregiver classes, which also cover more traditional skills such as home safety, grooming, dementia/Alzheimer's, communication, lifting and positioning, and nutrition and diet. In the future, Ramesh wants to offer an expanded eight- to 10-week program to more fully address these issues as well as emergency preparedness. Ramesh, who is also a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) volunteer, believes that since caregivers are already in the home, they will be the default first-responders in most emergency situations such as fire and earthquakes, so should be trained to react quickly in these situations.
To launch these new programs, Ramesh has been applying for grants. Amazingly, to date All Care Plus has been funded solely by the low fees charged for classes and Livescan fingerprinting services. All Care Plus also partners with religious organizations, low-income parenting groups, and senior centers to provide free training programs whenever possible.
Currently, about 80 percent of people taking the classes are nannies or other paid caregivers, but Ramesh would love to see more people from the general community participate.
"My goal is for everybody to become CPR-certified so that they are ready to save lives," he states. "If we can develop a culture where everyone is prepared to act in an emergency, it would revolutionize society and change people's perspectives on their role in the community. People might even have more altruistic thoughts — who knows?"
If you would like to be part of the life-saving revolution, see AllCarePlus.org to sign up for classes in Palo Alto or Milpitas. Current holiday special: combined CPR/First Aid classes (regularly $58) are available for $49.
Mountain View resident Jennifer Pence is founder of the Windmill Giving Circle and founder and owner of Academic Springboard, a tutoring group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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