Caregiving can be a lonely task.
Just you and your loved one alone in the house, day after day. Aside
from family, there are few others who are available to lend support,
to pick up the pieces when you feel they are falling apart, and maybe no one around who truly understands
what it is you are going through.
Caregiving can send your emotions
on a roller coaster ride -- in any 24-hour period you can experience
fear, rage, hope, sadness, humor, grief, bravery, fatigue,
dedication and be overwhelmed with love.
It may come as no surprise,
therefore, to hear that caring can play havoc with the caregiver's
own physical, emotional and psychological well-being. A recent study
in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association
discovered that people caring for elderly spouses are more likely to
die early as a result of the toll taken on their own lives.
Have you reached caregiver
Caregiver stress and overwork can lead to what is known as
'caregiver burnout.' This is when you are beyond exhaustion, when
you are drained of all physical, spiritual and emotional reserves,
when you feel as though you just can't go on one minute longer. If
you reach this stage, you are at danger of ending up with two people
who need care: your loved one, who depends on you for daily basic
needs, and yourself.
Support groups offer a safe
So what steps can you take to ensure you don't reach caregiver
burnout? Support groups are becoming more and more popular. They
offer a safe place to share emotions and experiences, seek and give
advice, and exchange practical information with others. Support
groups can be found for like-minded people experiencing all sorts of
situations, from those suffering from certain diseases to those for
gamblers and over-eaters.
You're not alone. . .
Support groups help you see that your situation is not unique, that
you are not alone in your feelings and experiences. Just as
importantly, you can use support groups as a resource to find other
people who have struggled with the same problems as you and have
found answers. As a caregiver, you may begin to rely more on your
informal networks and peer groups for support than healthcare
How to find a caregiver support group
Support groups can be found through a number of sources:
- Ask other caregivers you know if
they go to any groups; word of mouth is often the easiest way.
- Check local chapters of disease-specific organizations, such as the
Alzheimer's Association or the Multiple
- Contact the American
- Ask your local religious service
- Contact your Area
Agency on Aging
- Talk to the social service
department of your hospital.
- The Well Spouse Foundation
(800-838-0879) has a list of available support groups. Contact
this organization directly to find the one nearest you.
- Children of Aging Parents -
National Self-Help Clearing House (212-354-8525) also keeps a
current list of support groups for caregivers.