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Caring for Family Caregivers

Caring for Family Caregivers

Greetings one and all! Once again, it’s time to take a break from the action and reflect on the journey of caregiving. So, I invite you to take a deep breath, pour a cup of coffee or hot tea, and relax. This past weekend, I participated in an extraordinary event for family caregivers—a day of pampering offered by a consortium of community organizations and agencies. I was honored to present programs and to meet the caregivers and service providers in attendance. The goal of the day was quite simple—create a space in which caregivers could breathe, relax, laugh, learn, and enjoy the moment. By so doing, we hoped to reinforce the benefits of daily self-care for caregivers.

For many of the caregivers, it was a challenge to attend the event. They were hesitant to leave their loved one for the day (even with in-home care or other family caregivers present); they felt guilty. Others commented that being pampered—massages, music, aromatherapy, manicures, etc.—was lovely, but it was also hard. Family caregivers are accustomed to giving care. Receiving care (or self-care) is not the daily norm. So, it was initially challenging for some people to shift from giving to receiving.

It also required tremendous courage for many of the caregivers to attend—courage to admit that they needed and wanted a break from stressful situations. I heard this from many caregivers as I chatted with people waiting in line for breakfast. One woman, in particular, grabbed my heart. She arrived at the event alone and seemed to be carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. As she approached the breakfast line, I welcomed her and asked, “How are you today?” To which she responded, “I’m fine.” As I held her gaze, there was a dramatic change in her energy—from defensive to accepting. She then admitted, “No, no. I’m not fine. I’m anything but fine. That’s why I am here today.” Although somewhat uncomfortable, she was willing to be vulnerable, open, and receptive. She discovered the courage to be cared for by others.

As the day progressed, I witnessed the amazing transformation that a little pampering provides to weary bodies and souls. Dull eyes brightened. Stressed shoulders relaxed. Stooped bodies straightened. Pursed lips smiled. Lively conversations replaced silence. Laughter trumped sighs. Hope mitigated overwhelming despair. Light illuminated the darkness. A sustaining sense of community arose from common ground, a common experience—caregiving and care receiving. I never cease to be amazed by the resilience, strength, commitment, and courage of caregivers. This day was no exception.

One day of pampering didn’t change the reality of any of the caregivers attending. At the end of the day, each person returned to challenging, if not daunting, caregiving situations. However, each caregiver left the event a little lighter, a little happier, and a little healthier. With a commitment to continued self-care, I truly believe that can become a new way of being for caregivers—lighter, happier, and healthier. Step at a time….may it be so.

I look forward to the ongoing conversation. If you have specific questions or concerns related to your caregiving experience, I would love to hear from you. Until the next posting, I wish you and yours countless blessings…jane

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