Monday, December 12, 2011

The common thread of caregiving

For the past 4 years, I've been attending a caregivers support group at the Northshore Senior's Center. Though I've tried other more homogenous groups, like the one in Ravenna for long-distance caregivers, or another, designed to meet the needs of adult children in caregiving roles, I've found the greatest benefit from this eclectic one. No doubt it has plenty to do with the fact that the group members have become like family to me; we care about each other and know one another's stories intimately. I appreciate the diverse circumstances and perspectives and have especially benefitted from bearing witness to the older men and their coping strategies. It's been a great gift in helping me develop compassion for my stepfather, who, until last December, oversaw the care of my mother.

Here is a list of those in attendance today and a brief mention of the loved one they care for. All of us care for a family member living with some form of dementia.
Henry: spouse at home with Alzheimer's with significant paranoia; needs constant supervision
Frank: wife Grace in care facility; mute; eyes closed for past 2 years
Marion: spouse, Don, a twin whose brother also has Alzheimer's; Don is recently deceased after living 2 years in an adult family home; Marion still attends group for support and "to help others if I can"
Francis: spouse of 16 years; lives at home with her
Arlene: new to group; spouse has dementia secondary to whole brain radiation for non hodgkin's lymphoma
Joanne: husband Don in care facility
Jenny: long-distance caregiver to mother in memory care unit
Bob: wife at home; compliant, soft spoken, "easy"
Lillian: spouse at home; watches TV 24/7
Chris: spouse Karl, 59, in memory care unit for past 1.5 years; wanderer
Christina: mother; full-time caregiver for past 4 years; has 4 siblings in U.S. but does all the caregiving "since I'm the only single one and they all have kids"
Ruby: spouse has early onset Alzheimer's; lives at home with her; Ruby recently diagnosed with breast cancer

Frank, who is soft-spoken and teary-eyed most of the time, stepped out of his shell today and read us a list of silly internet quotes that had us all busting at the seams. Janet, the social worker who facilitates the group, popped in a DVD with an image of a fireplace complete with crackling logs and orange embers. Lillian brought cheesecake, sparkling cider, mixed nuts, and two thermoses of coffee as a special treat. Joanne brought her neighbor, Arlene, who reluctantly placed her husband in an adult family home just 10 days ago. Last night she treated herself to a musical downtown, her first night out in 3 years.

It takes a village. I'm proud to be part of this one!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your journey with others and with us.