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Sat, Dec. 07

Nonprofits provide valuable assistance to seniors and caregivers

A couple of months ago, a close friend shared her experience of being the primary caregiver for her elderly mother. Although my friend had willingly and lovingly stepped into her new role, she was feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of details and decisions that had to be made. With no other family members nearby, the responsibility fell squarely on her shoulders. She was emotionally and physically exhausted and clearly in need of help. Her story reminded me of my own family's role as caregivers, both now and in the past, as well as my passion for helping seniors and caregivers.

There is a growing number of adult children locally who are in the process of relocating or assisting one or both of their parents, or have done so within the past few years. What I find interesting is the fact that people do not seem to be talking about their experiences and resultant challenges openly. It's as if "taking care of an elderly parent or spouse" is not a topic for polite conversation. Yet, once the subject is on the table, the floodgates open.

Along with the joys of growing old, there are numerous issues, needs and frustrations encountered by both aging parent and adult child. Issues such as finding an appropriate balance between offering help and taking care of a parent, and the senior's loss of independence are just two of many subjects that unleash a myriad of emotions and fears for those on both ends of the generations. Many caregivers and seniors try to handle things alone, which often results in needless frustration and suffering.

The focus of this monthly column has been nonprofit organizations. The intent is to provide information about available resources; let you know how you might get involved to make a difference to those in need in our community; and to offer hope. And there are many nonprofit agencies that can be of help to seniors and caregivers locally. Nonprofits provide a variety of resources and support, both emotional and tangible, designed to improve our quality of life.

Information and direct services are available for such things as physical and emotional health issues, transportation, housing, food, respite care and socialization opportunities. There are support groups that meet on a regular basis, as well as caring individuals you can call if time is of the essence or sharing with strangers is not your cup of tea. Many of the agencies offer their services for free or low cost, and many services are not dependent upon the income level of the recipient. In the coming months, I will highlight these agencies, as well as provide information on how we can assist one another as friends, neighbors, co-workers and as a community.  

The issues surrounding aging and caregiving are often quite stressful and it's easy to become overwhelmed. Whether you are a senior who is caring for yourself; a caregiver for a spouse or parent or other loved one; or an organization that offers assistance, I invite you to share with me your stories, questions and concerns. I promise to retain your anonymity, but will use applicable information in future columns. I also invite you to sign up to receive my new, free, no-obligation monthly newsletter. "Caregiver Connection" is a resource for seniors, caregivers, and provider organizations. It includes information about meetings, support groups and services offered by local agencies, as well as brief articles on relevant topics.

With the number of resources available in our local communities, there is no reason for anyone to have to walk this path alone. Each of us has within our reach the assistance necessary to assure the best possible quality of life for ourselves and our loved ones. I am pleased and energized to be able to share with you my passion for assisting seniors and caregivers.

Debbie Stewart owns Stewart Communications, a consultancy firm for nonprofit organizations. She has started a newsletter called "Caregiver Connection" for seniors and their caregivers.  For a free subscription, contact Debbie@CaregiverConnection.us or call (928) 778-3747.

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