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Barbara Garwood: A Caregiver’s Life

It takes a village

Hard to believe, but summer is coming to an end. It is the time of year when children and adults lament the end of a slower pace and gear up to head back for another school year. Supplies must be purchased, new outfits bought to replace those that are outgrown, and children handed over to the larger community to teach them and shape them. It is the time of year when you often hear the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

This saying made me think of something that should have been obvious to me before now, something that is so easily put into words that provide a clearer view of the need. It takes a village to support older adults and the people who care for them. Think about it. Every caregiver needs a village in much the same way a parent needs a village to raise a child.

Family caregivers bear the lion’s share of the load when it comes to taking care of aging parents or spouses. Just as babies do not come with instructions, caregivers do not have a handbook or road map to tell them where the resources are or what skills they will need to learn along the way. In most cases they operate on a wing and prayer, giving their best effort and so much love to the task before them. This is very admirable, but they sure could use some help.

As a village, let’s reach out to these caregivers and lend them a hand. You may think you don’t know anyone who is providing care for an older or disabled adult. I would challenge you to think again. Look at the folks in your neighborhood. Are there seniors who could use help caring for their lawn, getting their newspaper to the porch in the morning, getting to the grocery store? If you attend church, look around your congregation. I bet you will find caregivers who are so very tired and could use help caring for their loved one. Ask someone in the church office if there is a group already in place to help caregivers with simple tasks. If nothing is in place, think about starting a group to support these folks. How about your co-workers? Chances are you will find caregivers there as well, making every effort to be at work and do their best, even though they may have been up all night caring for an elderly parent. These people are in need, and you are their village. Let a grassroots movement begin, one family at a time.

Just as villages have schools, recreation programs, and support systems for children, they also have support systems for caregivers and older adults. Our community offers an adult day program for frail and disabled adults and can accommodate adults with dementia. Trinity at Home is a blessing to participants and caregivers alike. Our community also offers support groups for people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, as well as those living with the effects of strokes. We have Meals on Wheels, hospice, Rowan Transit, Rufty-Holmes Senior Center’s nutrition programs, and 911’s Are U OK program. Several local congregations provide hands-on services, such as building ramps at church members’ homes.

I invite you to familiarize yourself with the resources in our community. Next time you encounter a frazzled caregiver, please share with them the help that is right here in our village. If you have questions about resources, feel free to call 704-603-2776 for more information. I also invite you to step slightly out of your comfort zone and offer a little bit of your time to someone in need. You will be greatly rewarded for your efforts.

If family caregivers are going to stay strong and healthy, they need our help. They need their neighbors. They need their co-workers. They need their friends. They need a village. In my childhood days, we walked home after school. Let us pull together and walk with each other through the caregiving journey. After all, we’re all just walking each other home.

Barbara Garwood is the transitional care coordinator for Lutheran Services Carolinas. For more information about caregiving,  call Trinity at Home at 704-603-2776.

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