Growing up in a family of eleven children, my sisters and I spent much of our childhood caring for other siblings, including premature twins that have developmental disabilities. This experience gave me a glimpse into the difficulties that we face when caring for loved ones. In addition, my daughter suffered a traumatic brain injury as an infant from a motor vehicle accident that left her with cognitive impairments. Caring for her over the years included gaining an understanding of the many aspects to care for an individual with brain injury, especially since it was not as well known nor supported as it is today. I was appointed my daughter’s legal guardian and conservator over 20 years ago and continue to manage all of these components of her life today. From that experience I realized the need to also help support a family member manage his finances and medical care, thus becoming his legal durable and medical power of attorney.
These experiences have helped me gain significant knowledge organizing and planning the specific financial, medical, legal and social arenas related to our future care, as well as deal with the stress that comes with actual caregiving. Caring for my daughter and growing up with family members with developmental challenges inspired me to get a doctorate from the University of Arizona in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences with an emphasis on stress management and helping understand how we change our behavior and reach our goals--whether that be professionally or personally. In my career, I worked as a consultant and coach for individuals, leaders and executives helping them organize and develop their teams and themselves so they could become more productive as leaders within their organizations and improve areas of their personal lives.
So many aspects of personal and team development overlap into what goes into being a someone who cares for another and vice versa. I gained experience and fine tuned skills to interpret research, design educational material and present to various audiences on many topics. Organizing and planning made my personal and career responsibilities so much easier. Now, I am at a point in my life where I would like to share what I have learned to the community. As a consultant and coach, I can assist those who are planning their care, are already caregivers of family members, or community agencies plan and organize information more effectively. Ultimately, putting decisions making in our own hands and taking the burden and responsibility off of family and friends should something unexpected happen.
~Dr. Marla E. Jirak
Dr. Marla E. Jirak
Graduate from the University of Arizona; Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences; Tucson, AZ