Support from others is essential to our well-being. People were not meant to go it alone; especially during stressful times. No where is this more true than when it comes to caregivers. Caregiving is the quintessential support role of anyone who takes care of a chronically or terminally ill loved one.
This commodity is often readily available when your life as a caregiver begins. People stop by to offer help and condolences and they do so because they care. But in time, that attention wanes. Eventually, once the initial news has been received by family, friends and colleagues, most people will stop asking “How’s it going?”
That is the nature of life these days. Everyone is busy with their own lives and eventually they return their attentions back to their own worlds. Doesn’t make then uncaring people, just people who aren’t the primary caregiver, like you are.
But you still need ongoing support –as much as your loved one does. So where do you turn to get that important resource? Because you need to take responsibility for getting what it is you need so that you can be the kind of caregiver you want to be, you are going to have to search out what it is you need. Plan to make phone calls and ask questions – as many as you need to ask, so that you can make informed and good choices for you, your loved one and your pocket book.
I suggest you consider these options:
- Contact your community's senior center or home health agency in your area to see what they have to offer. Some can provide links to low-cost as well as no-cost assistance that is designed specifically for caregivers. If they don’t they can refer you to groups and organizations that offer this service.
- Check the time, frequency and location of group meetings you are interested in. Make sure it is convenient to you. You will need to make time in your schedule to attend regularly. Part of the success of any support plan is continuity.
- Be prepared to explore and sample. Visit a few groups to find one that you like. Each has its own format and you may discover that you prefer small groups (or vice versa).
- Think global if you don’t want to meet with people in your home town. You can also get involved in online chat groups and forums and, in some cases even join teleconference support groups.
There is nothing like getting support from people who know first-hand what you are experiencing. Their wisdom and insight could help you dissolve isolation and your participation may become a source of comfort for someone else.
J. Dietrich Stroeh is author of Three Months: A Caregiving Journey from Heartbreak to Healing (2012 FolkHeart Press). For more information, visit www.threemonthsbook.com.