Today I can count more than 20 friends or relatives who are acting as family caregivers for their loved ones. It’s probably the highest number I can remember in my adulthood.
My cousin’s wife is caring for her husband, who has oral cancer and is undergoing chemo and radiation. My girlfriend is caring for her husband with vascular dementia, and the husband of my niece, who has long COVID, is caring for my niece and their 3-year-old.
Not withstanding the marriage vows to love and care “in sickness and in health,” each caregiver never expected they would be tending an ill or disabled loved one.
In situations like these, the focus is on the person being cared for. And of course it should be. Who could not feel for a man not able to speak or swallow as his children, 6 and 8, look on?
Or my friend’s husband who has had three strokes and is in tremendous fear of the next one? Or my niece experiencing vertigo, mind fog and migraines that leave her disabled and, at times, unable to care for her young child?
Their spouses have taken over household responsibilities, provided hands-on care and, in general, act as the “rock of Gibraltar” for their partners.
This includes being the emotional rock, too. Those tearful times of empathy, those feelings of being overwhelmed or unable to cope as they deal with the fear and frustration of the unknown, and the emotional pressure to be encouraging for their loved one are weighing on them.
These family caregivers have stepped in to do whatever is necessary for their loved one’s care.
But like any stressful and exhausting experience with no end in sight, rescue needs to come if they are to sustain themselves. Military personnel get “R&R,” and firefighters and policemen get days off, but family caregivers are on the job 24/7.
This can lead to burnout, and burnout can lead to ill health for the caregiver and less than optimal care for their loved one.
That is why it’s so vital for family caregivers to have some respite from their duties, to be validated for the important lifesaving work they are doing and offered emotional encouragement and support in their journey.
Each year, Senior Concerns hosts Caregiver Recognition Day to honor and support family caregivers in our community. In concert with title sponsor Adventist Health Simi Valley and Gold Sponsor UCLA Health, Senior Concerns presents a Virtual Caregiver Recognition Day this year from 1 to 3 p.m. Thurs., March 10 on Zoom.
The annual event is designed to give family caregivers the chance to renew their spirit, reduce their stress and enjoy an uplifting and empowering program.
This year’s program includes presentations from experts: The Value of Connections to Combat Social Isolation, Having Faith in Yourself: How to Trust Yourself to Do the Right Thing, and Having the Courage to Advocate for Your Loved One and Feel Good About It.
The program will have several breakout opportunities for family caregivers to talk and share with one another in small groups with experienced moderators. There will be fun activities, music and videos.
And of course, the day would not be complete without an amazing goody bag for the first 100 registrants. The bags can be picked up at a drive-thru event at Neftin Westlake Mazda Volkswagen a few days before the program.
If you are a caregiver of an aging loved one in our community, you are welcome to join this free event by registering at seniorconcerns.org/caregiver-recognition day or by calling Senior Concerns at (805) 497-0189.