Most of us, at some time in our lives, will find ourselves in the role of caregiver. And just as we are different from one another, so are our caregiving experiences. Some caregiving experiences are the result of an unexpected illness or accident, while other caregiving experiences develop gradually. In addition, the caregiving role comes naturally to some and for others, caregiving is challenging at best.
Caregiving, no matter how much we love the person, tests our patience, impacts our sleep, changes our regular schedule, stirs up a plethora of emotions, and causes us to question our abilities on many fronts. Caregiving can also trigger or exacerbate our own health challenges, create stress in relationships, impact employment productivity and attendance, and make a dent in our checkbooks.
On the flipside, caregiving can be one of the most rewarding experiences in our lives. Caregiving may force us to be more efficient with our time, learn more about our loved one with the additional time we are now spending with him or her, and appreciate the caregivers who came before us like a parent caring for their parent or other loved one.
In Greene County, and beyond, the majority of caregivers providing support and care to older adults are family, but many are friends, neighbors, and other community members. Your Council is fortunate to work with hundreds of these individuals, but there are many others to whom we have no connection.
We hear from and talk with caregivers every day and much of our time with caregivers is spent listening and offering words of encouragement. Many caregivers, much to the surprise of others, feel inadequate and question the care they are providing. Some of these caregivers feel unsupported and judged by their families and others, which of course adds negatively to their caregiving role.
Your Council and several other organizations offer caregiver support groups, which a small portion of Greene County caregivers attend. Those who participate benefit from the opportunity to share, ask questions, and learn from other caregivers. We invite all to attend, but support groups are not for everyone and for many, the commitment does not fit their overflowing schedules.
Some caregivers benefit from respite care, whether through the Council, other programs, or paying privately for services. This is not easy for many caregivers, as ‘sharing the care’ may feel like shirking their responsibility or not worth the potential disapproval by their loved one. Our experience, however, is even the occasional respite makes a world of difference.
The most important takeaway is that ALL caregivers benefit from education and connection. We encourage you to take advantage of opportunities and support to learn about your loved one’s health challenges, strategies for providing care, available resources, and taking care of yourself. Make your first stop Your Council!