Early in my social work career, I met a woman who was taking care of her elderly father. Shortly after her father moved in with her, she started coming to the caregiver support group I was running.
Our meeting started with roundtable introductions. When it was Sarah’s turn, she whispered her name so quietly that I had to lean forward to hear it as she repeated it. Almost with a hint of embarrassment, she murmured, “My name is Sarah. ” And then she said, “Sorry, but I find myself speaking in whispers lately. I think that the stress of taking care of my father has taken away my ability to speak.”
In silence, we looked at one another, acknowledging that each of us had experienced this at some point in our caregiving experience. Her honest statement transformed us from strangers sitting in the basement of a church to a melting pot of caregivers confiding in one another under challenging circumstances.
During the session, I described how the stress of caregiving can often be understood through the Kubler Ross stages of grief -denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I could tell that knowing that there was a clinical foundation to what they were experiencing gave my clients a sense of hope because it restored some balance in a world that seemed chaotic.
Over the years, I’ve met people, like Sarah, who inspire us to be honest with ourselves, unveiling those tough issues that tug at our hearts. Sometimes they’re at my caregiver support group. Sometimes they’re at my son’s lacrosse game. The point is that they are everywhere- if you take the time to see them.
Do you know someone who’s a caregiver? Let them know about the New Milford VNA’s Caregiver Support Group.We meet the first and third Tuesday from 10-11:30 at the New Milford Senior Center.
Catherine Vlasto, LCSW