Film and panel discussion focus on journey of parent-caregivers
DSHS Office of Communications
Lisa Pemberton, Media Relations Manager
More than 600 people attended a hybrid screening and panel discussion of “Unseen: How We’re Failing Parent Caregivers & Why It Matters” on Wednesday, April 19, hosted by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
The event included a panel discussion featuring DSHS Secretary Jilma Meneses and Interim DSHS Assistant Secretary Tonik Joseph, who oversees its Developmental Disabilities Administration, the film’s director Amanda Dyer, Stacy Dym, executive director of The Arc of Washington State and parent-caregivers Joy Gehner and Yubisela Terrones.
“We’re here to see our families, and hear our families,” Meneses said.
Prior to the film, Dym read a statement from parent advocates about the film.
“This film shares the raw truth about the challenges faced by many family caregivers,” she said “This is not a film about the lived experiences of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, whose truths we also honor. It portrays the parent experience.”
“Unseen” follows Jess and Ryan Ronne, a blended family with eight children, including Lucas, who has profound disabilities requiring total care. Their situation has gotten more and more challenging as Lucas becomes a teenager, growing older and stronger. With limited resources and support, caregiving takes a toll on their physical and mental health.
Meneses described the film as “brilliant, very well done,” and said one of the points that resonated with her was that at some point in their life, everybody will either become a caregiver or be taken care of by a caregiver.
“No one can escape that reality,” Meneses said.
Joseph said the film provoked strong emotions. In fact, it compelled her to share her personal connection to caregiving — how she will eventually become a caregiver for an individual who is being cared for by her mother.
She said that most people at DDA have a direct connection with their work, and those connections help better inform their work. Joseph said the film was a reminder that not everyone has the same level of need for support — some people need different options than what the system currently offers.
Dym encouraged Meneses and Joseph to continue working with families, advocacy groups and other partners on better support for caregivers. She said the film can give people who aren’t caregivers a better understanding of the challenges that families face every day.
“It creates awareness and empathy because many people don’t understand there is a problem to solve,” Dym said after the event. “That families need more support.
During the 45-minute film, viewers on the virtual platform posted comments saying the film gave them more respect for parent-caregivers and that case resource managers should be required to watch the film. One caregiver posted “I feel seen.”
“I totally related to the film,” Terrones said.
She said community resources are scarce with long waitlists, and it’s even harder if English is not your first language, and you require translator services.
“It’s really hard for my community,” said Terrones, who lives in the Tri Cities.
Gehner said she also related to the film, and she hopes that people will watch it and understand that caregivers often downplay their challenges because it’s hard to find the words that express what they’re going through.
“It’s hard to convey the level of difficulty,” she said.
Gehner said she’d love to see a DDA case manager routinely ask caregivers “How can I help?” because their needs usually aren’t items that are covered on standard checklists.
Terrones said she would also like to see DDA offer training program that is specific to caregivers who work with children with developmental disabilities, not just for older adults.
Many DDA staff attended the event. Joseph and her staff have committed to:
· Reviewing all of the comments and questions posted in the chat by many of the more than 550 online participants.
· Producing and sharing a “Frequently Asked Questions” document for all registered participants. The document’s goal is to provide support and guidance to families trying to navigate the system and access resources.
· Finding more community opportunities to screen “Unseen” during the next year. Community groups that would like to co-host a screening can email Alicia.Morales@dshs.wa.gov or Lisa.Pemberton@dshs.wa.gov. If you didn’t get a chance to view the film, watch the trailer here and please watch DSHS’ social media channels for details on future screening dates.