Thursday, March 27, 2008

Care for Caregivers Part I

Caregiving can be draining on you and your family. Here's what you need to know.
By Beth Witrogen McLeod, Prevention

Chances are, if you're reading this, that you're already a member of the more than 22.4 million households involved in caregiving. Becoming a caregiver is a personal evolution and identity in itself.
Sometimes you settle in to the role gradually (Mom is less independent), and other times the shift is practically instant (Mom had a stroke). Regardless of how you come to be a caregiver, most of us are pitched into the responsibility untrained and largely unprepared. But there is help.
Remember high school English and the words of the English poet and clergyman John Donne: "No man [or woman] is an island"? Well, you shouldn't be either. You need the physical and emotional support of others, especially if you're the primary caregiver. You get that support by reaching out to family and friends — in essence, by building bridges between the islands.
These bridges are crucial if you want to thrive in your caregiving role. As Gloria Cavanaugh, president and chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based American Society on Aging, observes, "Caregiving is one of the most challenging tasks a person can take on, especially if the situation lasts for more than a few months. You can't do it all yourself. You need help, and lots of it."
As a caregiver, you're going to develop a whole new set of skills, not the least of which is reaching out to others. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice, it will build courage and self-confidence.
Perhaps you want to ask for help, but you don't know how. You can learn. Consider it a caregiver's rite of passage.

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