When serious illness strikes an older adult, the family is usually on the front line for care and support. Because the burden is often so extreme, friends may be called upon for a ride to a doctor’s appointment or a home-cooked meal once in a while, but it is the spouse, domestic partner, and/or children who bear the brunt of the life altering aftermath of a loved one’s stroke, heart attack or other serious illness. The adjustment a person makes to revolve their life around the care of a loved one should not be underestimated. How do caregivers cope physically, mentally, and emotionally under the weight? The isolation and loneliness many caregivers face while they meet the day to day: errands, chores, decisions and the physical labor involved can be overwhelming. Many people are afraid to share how they feel about their situation for fear of judgment.
One participant in the VCS Caregiver Support Group, Renee Kadan, puts it this way: “you can have empathy, but unless you are in it, you don’t get it. It’s a big adjustment.” Renee’s husband, who is a veteran, suffered several strokes and when his care became her primary responsibility, she needed help. Her children encouraged her to find a support group but as Renee says, “I wasn’t one to join any groups and it was hard for me to get out”. Renee found out about the VCS Caregiver Support Group through the Rockland County Office for the Aging Moving Forward newspaper and when she saw there are evening groups as well as daytime, she found a way to make it in the evenings. She’s been a faithful participant in the evening group on Wednesdays since it began in November 2017 and is a great fan of the evening facilitator, Darcy Bauer. Renee values her time at the support group and states “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done (for myself). We get a chance to vent our feelings without embarrassment and we know whatever is said stays within those doors. I go, no matter what.”
The Coordinator of Services for Older Adults and their Families at VCS, Jill Bieber, knows very well how important this service is to the well-being of caregivers. “The biggest help is seeing people coming together and not feeling alone. People in the same situation get the feelings of frustration and anger that caregivers sometimes have. The CARE Program at VCS offers the Caregiver Support Group providing a safe place to discuss the challenges associated with aging parents and relatives as well as information, resources and alternatives. Jill recounts: “We started with one monthly support group; now we have two and a plan to begin a third beginning January 28th called Mindfulness Mondays which offers the same support, within a broader context of self-care.”
CARE support groups are held at VCS at 77 South Main Street, New City and thanks to the Rockland County Office for the Aging they are FREE and no sign-up needed. Just show up. For more information call 845-634-5729.