“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the things which you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
“If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.” ― Amy Tan
Walking into the Best Western’s conference room, as I looked around, I noticed approximately ten tables decorated in fall colors that were set for eight to ten male and female caregivers expectantly waiting for answers to their problems. Questions and comments I heard at the Family Support Caregiving Conference included statements like: One tired and tense, young woman spoke with tears in her eyes, “How do I care for my parents, go to work, and care for my kids too?”
Another woman said, “I was so angry that my husband had Alzheimer’s that I finally realized it was more important to take care of me, and then I stopped being angry.”
The leader of the support group mentioned, “Dealing with my parents’ finances, while they were sick, simply was not a matter of paying bills, there was way more to it as my sisters and I could not agree on what needed to be done for our parents’ financial security. I was heart-broken.”
“One wife said, “When I called ER and they showed up, I told them my husband passed out and nearly killed himself hitting his head on the tile floor in the bathroom.” The Emergency Medic turned to her and replied, “Your husband is drunk.” Her shocked response was “What do you mean he is drunk?”
Women in my group predominantly are caring for husbands and parents with Alzheimer’s, but there were a few exceptions as the woman who is dealing with caring for an alcoholic husband and attempting to get him straightened out. Then my husband has extraordinarily low blood pressure, so he stands up and passes out, adding to his other health issues.
What shocked me was the amount of anger that these loving women dealt with in caring for their family members. I thought I would be the only angry person in the group, and I felt there was something wrong with me for feeling so bad. Then I learned that you “need to give yourself oxygen before you can care for a loved one,” as it seemed to be the quote of the day for our group.
The Family Caregiver Support Conference included subjects like: Don’t Let Your Back Pain Slow You Down, Meditation and Self-Care Exercises, Assistive Technology, Safe Physical Transfer Assistance and Use of Equipment, and finally small break-out group discussions.
The Meditation exercise relaxed several of us so much that I noticed heads drooping as it nearly put us to sleep. Yes, we were stressed out. Then the conference leader had us doing stretches, and showed us some exercises to help keep us strong. The exercise would relax us too. After teaching us to relax, a list was handed out of agencies from around the county that we could turn to for emotional support.
The amazing part of this conference showed us equipment that helped severely disabled people function more normally on their own. Heck, I was shocked to see what looked like eye glasses designed to help people manipulate their computers through head and eye movements alone.
For those people with difficulty operating various machines, there are special handles that look like gardening tools designed so that you can attach it to the disabled person and then to the piece of equipment. Thus these handles make life easier for handicapped people so they can function more on their own. So not only caregivers gained support but we learned where to find equipment that would help incapacitated family members too.
For me, the best part of the conference was learning of the variety of support agencies that I can turn to if I need help. As well, I enjoyed meeting the other caregivers out there who needed support, as I do. We shared stories and tears. None of us expected to end up in this position but now all we can do is the best we can do, and know that we aren’t alone. Turning to others and helping one another out is important. I think when we all left the conference we felt that the load on our shoulders had lightened.