Who Cares For The Caregiver?
The Caregiver’s Dilemma
The last time you were on an airplane, the flight attendant showed you the oxygen masks which deploy in an emergency. Remember her counsel? “If you’re sitting next to a young child, take the mask for yourself first, then help the child!” She doesn’t want you to make the mistake so many caregivers do, taking care of everyone else except themselves!
What is a Caregiver?
In one of every 3 households, at least one of the members is a Caregiver. In the USA today, there are 44 million of them. Over half are women, some men, unfortunately, some are children! They’re looking after someone who can’t fully take care of himself or herself. In some cases, it’s a temporary disability. In other cases, it’s a progressive disability, like Alzheimer’s. In many, it is terminal. And in almost every case, the Caregiver makes a huge and commendable effort looking after the care-receiver. Caregivers are magnificent and generous people, but they stubbornly look after themselves last, very much to their detriment.
“Caregiving is universal. There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” Rosalyn Carter
What is the value of Caregiving?
The Reverend Greg Johnson, a member of the President’s Committee on Caregiving, and a recent Keynote Speaker for our events, estimates the market value of Caregiving at $450 Billion in patient services per year. That’s a B not an M! The math says that each caregiver spends over 20 hours a week, and provides $110,000 of free medical services a year. Our organization is committed to the support of Caregivers. Because when Caregivers discover they are shortchanging themselves in the business of living a life:- having feelings, relationships, adventure, and personal purpose- they’re astounded. And then, slowly, they begin to make choices.
Our mission is to create support groups all over Long Island where Caregivers can make good choices. Our vision is that similar processes can easily be generated nationwide.
The Caring For The Caregiver Program.
1. The Caregiver’s Fair. Working with local organizations and church groups, we invite all the members of the community to the Caregiver’s Fair. We’ve had many such events over the last 3 years. In April of 2010, we had 82 attendees to our Caregiver’s Fair at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Syosset, NY. The excitement was tremendous, evaluations were overwhelmingly positive, Caregivers left with a new awareness of their life choices, and a copy of the Caregiver’s Bill of Rights. Subsequently, we hosted Caregivers fairs in Smithtown, East Setauket, Massapequa, and Mineola. In January of 2012, we had 126 attendees at a Winthrop Hospital fair.
2. The Caring and Healing Circle. Four times a month, local caregivers have met in Syosset, Long Island for an afternoon or evening to discuss their care-giving experiences. Here, caregivers discover that they can talk about issues they could express at no other place. Admission to the group is restricted to caregivers exclusively. And even the two trained facilitators must be or have been a Caregiver. At the end of the meeting, members are gently encouraged to consider or take action, and report back at the next meeting.
What differentiates these programs from other support groups is that this is not just an opportunity to dump your pain and get sympathy. What’s unique is that, since all the members of the group are caregivers, they quickly set about counseling and healing one another! Over time, the group members move one another from being victims of their own generosity to taking care of their own well-being while they develop greater skill and efficiency as Caregivers.