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The Dr. Beverly Kidder Interview

An Interview with Dr. Beverly Kidder
Director - Aging and Disability Center,
Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut

Beverly Kidder:  Two reasons. One, I got sick and tired of hearing and reading about the burden of caregiving, as though that is the only model we have. And, I was inspired one time a couple of years ago to hear a man, whose wife had Alzheimer’s disease, talk about the wonderful gift that he had received from her through the process of caring for her. That just kind of stuck in my mind. I was thinking about my personal experience as a caregiver and recognizing what an opportunity it was for me as a human being to be a caregiver for my mother and I remembered what he said. I thought, I want to balance this notion of burden with the notion of gift.

Gary Barg:  Can you explain what an Area Agency on Aging does and why a caregiver should reach out to their local agency?

Beverly Kidder:  Area Agencies on Aging are federally mandated and federally funded to provide services to a broad spectrum of older adults and family caregivers. The government recognized that without family caregivers providing support, billions of additional dollars would have to be spent providing services to people, whether that be in their home or if they were transitioned to institutions. It would be something that could break the federal budget. And so the notion emerged that these individuals who provide care to family members should have support in a way that would enable them to stay in the role, because it is a very popular role.

Gary Barg:  We always appreciate working with you when we host a New Haven Fearless Caregiver Conference. In fact, I think our tenth year is coming up.

Beverly Kidder:  Yes. Time went quickly. It is one of our favorite things. We learned about your activities when I happened to go to an event in Philadelphia and see you do a Fearless Caregiver Conference there about 11 years ago. I saw how empowering that was to the people in the audience. I said, “Wow, this is something great we should be doing in Connecticut!” We have been very happy to bring it to the people here and we have seen our numbers grow like crazy.

Gary Barg:  A really nice section in The Gift of Caregiving is about the relationship between the paid caregiver and the family caregiver, even down to expenses. I just thought that made a lot of sense to bring that up because I do not hear anybody talking about that.

Beverly Kidder:  I would have to give credit to one my college professors, Abraham Monk. He talked about knowing the difference between what we do for money and what we do out of informal relationships. It does not matter how nice the paid caregiver is and how much they like you. They still are there in a paid role that has certain expectations. There are no such contracts on family caregivers. You do whatever your heart tells you and your capacity enables you to do. Although they have similar goals and purposes to keep the individual healthy, safe, and happy, their capacity to deliver that role is different based on the fact that one is financially based and one is based on love, affection and affiliation.

Gary Barg: So, as the author of The Gift of Caregiving, what would be the one most important piece of advice you would like to leave family caregivers with?

Beverly Kidder:  The lesson that I learned for myself, and I believe it is true for anyone who opens themselves to it: this is not only a sacrifice. This is an opportunity that you are given later in life to really become fully what you were intended to be, to really come to understand yourself, to grow, stretch and do what you know inside, deep inside yourself, is the right thing to do. Through this experience, you get to grow in compassion and in love. These are wonderful gifts, whether you are 50, 60, 70, 80, or 90 years old, to still be growing and developing as a human being. I think it is a wonderful gift.

 

Listen to the full interview