The secret’s out: Caregivers often feel strain, but support is available.
It never occurred to me to speak openly about the often “secret” nature of caregiving. (Guess that’s what makes a secret a secret, huh?) We enjoyed having WAMU at our class and for the sensitive and respectful way they handled our “secrets.”
Listen to the full story here: Caregiver Shares Secret
But I should make a couple of clarifications about the story that offer important takeaways for family caregivers:
-The place I visited in India wasn’t actually an ashram. It was the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandarim (KYM), a therapeutic yoga and research center, located in a bustling city center.
I think this is an important clarification because people usually associate ashrams with spiritual retreats in remote areas. However, KYM taught me lasting tools for managing my stress responses in the middle of an often chaotic city where I spent each day going about life’s routine tasks (e.g., commuting, taking care of basic needs like food and shelter) and a few non-routine tasks (e.g., navigating an unfamiliar culture without knowing the language).
The message for caregivers: It’s possible to learn self care and cultivate internal peace wherever you are, even if the place and circumstances seem chaotic.
-My mother battled cancer for nearly a year and half. While I supported her and was frequently by her side throughout, I didn’t become a 24/7 caregiver until the final months of her life.
This is significant because distance didn’t necessarily impact the intensity of my experience caring for her. Whether I was by her side or miles away, being a member of her care team was my top priority and I had to be as vigilant about caring for myself as I was about supporting her.
Why? I felt focused and able to maintain calm when caring for my mom. But the months of intense caregiving and the grief of losing her wore me down. Only when my dad became seriously ill a couple of months after my mom died, did I realize how, over time, caregiving had affected my energy levels and ability to focus.
The message for caregivers: Effective caregiving requires even more than becoming knowledgeable about or dedicated to the act of caregiving. We’re only human, so we have to respect the need to care for ourselves as well.
Thanks again WAMU. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share Kadamba Tree’s story and for your coverage.
Karen is a Certified Program Leader for the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving’s Caring for Me, Caring for You Program and a Master Trainer for RCI’s Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver’s Health (REACH) program. These evidence- backed programs offer education and support for family caregivers.