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Caregivers share wisdom, compassion

4:44 PM, Jun. 13, 2013  |  Comments
Caregivers and care providers participate in a Memory Walk during a professional conference in Wisconsin Dells.
Caregivers and care providers participate in a Memory Walk during a professional conference in Wisconsin Dells.
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This past month, I had the honor and privilege to speak at the statewide Alzheimer's Association Conference held in the Wisconsin Dells.

You will never find yourself in a more caring atmosphere than to be surrounded by caregivers and the professionals working in the field of dementia care; people coming together to comfort, to learn and to share their wisdom.

As children, we are often asked what we want to be when we grow up. I asked that very question to the 50 people attending my breakout session. "Who wanted to be firemen? Who wanted to be policemen? Who wanted to be teachers or nurses? Who wanted to be hairdressers? Who want to be a caregiver?" No one replied.

Did we show signs at a young age for having that special heart that it takes to care for someone else? When did we become the caregiver, was it by choice?

I shared with the group that my caregiving career began when I was 16 years old searching for an after-school job. I walked into a nursing home and saw an older woman sitting in a chair with an attached table and foot rest. She was crying out but I was unable to understand her pleas. I turned around and walked out of the building. Thinking to myself, "I was way too young to take this on!" I hadn't gotten far out the door when the thought came to mind that someone needs to care for her. I went back in applied for the job and started that very next day. I was blessed to have gotten to know Emma and attribute my years in this field to her.

This experience provided me with the courage and confidence to be in this field for the past 30-plus years.

I also discovered that being in this field doesn't prepare you for caring for your own loved one. We might have all the referrals in place, we might have all the book smarts, but emotionally it is very difficult to provide that same care for a family member.

Learning to accept the role changes, learning patience, learning to deal with loss of the person we know, learning when to let go and when to hold on, learning to say "I can't do it alone," learning to heal, learning to accept the new person, doing what is best for both of you, learning to be a daughter again, letting go of the things we can't control and shouldn't, enjoying the best of times and working through the worst of times, having the empathy for others and reaching out to them and taking this new journey one day at a time.

We won't know when the call to caregiving" will come our way, but don't be frightened. Our community is blessed with wonderful home health care providers who will assist you with caregiving and agencies that can help you with services, programs and support groups.

I found that no one should walk through this alone. Feel free to phone the Merrill Area Community Enrichment Center at 715-536-4226 and we would be happy to direct you where to go for the best services.

For those of you who are currently providing the love and care for your loved one, for those who come into your home to assist with those cares, I truly admire you for what you do; you are blessed that you can do what you do. God bless you all.

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