Caregivers Keep Each Other Afloat

Many members of the “sandwich generation” play a balancing act with work, family and aging parents who need caregivers. Usually, looking after parents affected by dementia and other health problems is thrust upon one daughter (or occasionally a son) without discussion or choice. Then the adult child must scramble for solutions.

Caring for parents whose medical issues make them behave like toddlers-and demand as much care or more-is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't done it. Day-to-day expressions of love, determination and sacrifice often go unrecognized by family members who provide little help and considerable criticism.

Can we manage the responsibilities of caring for aging parents? Can support groups really help? The answer to both questions is yes.

A Safe Place for Caregivers

Adult children are eager to connect with peers who understand the difficulties of parental role-reversal. Caregivers' support groups give perspective on common issues. Furthermore, caregiving is an acquired skill best learned from the experts. Participating in a group reveals that those with personal experience have valuable know-how.

Group discussion is fast and furious, with frequent themes:

  • “How can I get my mother into the shower?”
  • “My children are so mad at me for bringing Dad to live with us.”
  • “Mom is biting and hitting her aide.”

While group members may offer helpful suggestions, having an appropriate forum for issues like this is what keeps support groups going. There really is strength in numbers. Knowing you aren't the only one who is wrestling with a situation that allows little satisfaction or success is an important factor in belonging to a caregivers' support group.

The emotional and physical impact on caregivers is valued at $9.3 billion, according to the 2014 Alzheimer's Association Facts and Figures Report. Unpaid caregiving for people with dementia is estimated at 17.7 billion hours and valued at $220.2 billion. So while there is no cure yet for dementia, there is real value for caregivers in talking about it.

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