AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Adult children of aging parents often suffer from a multitude of problems, which they endure quietly and alone. This article describes how five such caregivers formed a support group and derived invaluable help in coping.
Adult children of aging parents are the unsung heroes of eldercare. What caregivers do "for free has been estimated to have a value of $196 billion per year. (1) They devote countless hours, physical stamina, and emotional strength to help care for one or both of their parents. In many instances caregivers neglect their own health and emotional well-being. They often suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, sleeplessness, weight gain or loss, chronic pain, and anxiety. "It is noteworthy that each of the most common caregiver health problems can potentially impair the caregiver's ability to provide physical and emotional support for a frail elder." (2)
Although caregivers may suffer from a multitude of problems, they often endure their pain isolated and alone. Their profound silence often belies the caregivers' intense need for help, support and validation that they are doing a good job.
According to a national caregiver study conducted by the National Council on Aging and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation,
[A] recurring theme in most of the (caregiver) interviews was the reluctance of many caregivers to seek help, even when on the verge of physical exhaustion. The reason given most often: the caregivers (and sometimes the care recipients) felt that they would somehow be failing to cope with a basic family responsibility if they acknowledged a need for support. Caregiver respite and service providers often must find tactful ways to convince caregivers that they can work even more effectively when they accept help. (3)
A support group often provides caregivers with the type of help they need. It is considered a safe venue for many caregivers to discuss their feelings, concerns, anger, and frustration. But a group setting is not for everyone. Some caregivers feel uncomfortable because they feel a loss of anonymity in a group or they may find it difficult to talk about personal issues with several people. Often caregivers express disdain about listening to other people's problems. They sometimes admit that if they can deny the reality of the future they can live and cope with the present. If caregivers express feeling uncertain about a group experience they may want to try a particular group through a recommendation from a friend, or geriatric professional, such as a social worker or registered nurse. If they decide it is not the type of experience they are looking for then it is their right--and choice--to reach out for another type of intervention.
For the willing caregiver, the group can provide a meaningful array of supports and experiences. A …