AARP Rich In Information for Seniors and Caregivers
USATODAY Features Caregiver Stress

Yesterday, at the North Dakota Forums on Aging…

The AARP speaker, Elinor Ginzler, was excellent. In keeping with her mission of elder care for AARP, and her book, co-authored by Hugh Delehanty, titled Caring for your Parents – The Complete AARP Guide, she spoke on caregivers caring for themselves.

Ginzler has been a caregiver, herself, and it shows. Nothing educates like first-hand experience. I spoke with her a bit before her Valley City talk. I was impressed with her knowledge and compassion for caregivers. Her main message? We aren’t a nation of neglectful adult children. We don’t ‘warehouse’ our elders. She preached one of my favorite messages – that even when we have loved ones in nursing facilities, they are there because they need the care, and most of us are very attentive and we are still caregivers.

I had three people in a nursing home at one time. This was after everyone had moved from their own apartments and condos because they could no longer safely stay in that environment. I was still on 24/7. I visited daily. I was called for emergencies. I was called regularly by my mother, who often forgot she had just called five minutes ago. No matter where I was, my mind was never totally free from caregiving. This is where a lot of caregiver stress comes from – the fact that we can’t escape the reality of the situation. We never, truly, get away.

Ginzler’s message stressed the fact that most of us, as caregivers, put our own healthcare at the bottom of our long to-do list. We put relaxation and doing things we enjoy at the bottom of the list. We don’t have time for self-care. She says, rightly, that we have to make time, if we want to survive these years with our health in tact.

Caregiving goes on much longer than most people expect. I believe that is one of the main reasons caregivers think it‘s okay to put ourselves last. We think it’s for the short-term. Often, years go by, and we still don’t totally understand the fact that we are enmeshed in a long-term stress experience. We neglect ourselves, and everyone pays the price.

Ginzler encourages people to understand this fact, going into caregiving. Start putting your own health high on the list from the start, and keep it there. I got the feeling she didn’t always do as she preaches. I know I didn’t. It’s very difficult, when you are juggling the needs of children, jobs and elders, to say, ‘I need to do this for me.’

Hearing Ginzler makes me want to read her book. I’ll be ordering it – and adding it to this site. Let me know if you’ve read it, and what you think. And again, I encourage you to go to www.aarp.org for great information.

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