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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN  / A Caregiver's Friends and FAmily Plan /   Editorial List

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A Caregiver's Friends and Family Plan

My column in last week’s newsletter about my friend who moved home to help take care of his father brought a flood of responses. In my friend’s case, his previously healthy mother died suddenly while taking care of his father (not an unusual occurrence for the primary caregiver in any family). I know how difficult it can be to take a break from the stress of caregiving, even when we know it is the best thing we possibly can do for ourselves and the loved one for whom we care. The obvious answer is getting our friends and family to help us more, but that is trickier than it seems.

Florence’s email is a case in point.

Hi Gary,

I am drowning in stress due to caring for my mother who has cancer. I am single and an only child, so I feel that I have no one to talk to about what I am going through.

I am a healthcare professional (nurse) as well, which makes it worse sometimes because I know all too well what she is doing wrong when she is noncompliant.
It seems lately that all I do is work and take care of her. I do not have anyone to go do something fun with from time to time, which makes it really hard.

I just feel trapped and alone in this situation. I love my mother very much, but I just need relief from all of this constant responsibility and care for her. She does not have the money for me to bring in a hired person, nor does she really need it as of yet. She is so finicky that no one but me can do things right for her. What I would not give for a sister at this time.

OK, I'm through venting :-). I feel better having put all this onto you (ha!). I'm actually going to sit down and watch a TV program all the way through tonight!!

Thanks for listening,


Your mom is quite lucky to have a daughter like you. Actually, I think the first best step is reaching out and just putting your feelings on paper (or a computer screen). I don’t know where you live or if your mom has any friends or you have any other relatives who could step in and lend a hand. Many times the challenge is that people don’t know how to help until we give them specific duties. Please see link below.

The other thing I would recommend is a support group (I know what you might be thinking), but support groups become our families of choice and great friends are made from the time spent together. I think it would be a great idea to see if your mom may have any activities that she really enjoys, in which she can spend some time so you can also get some time off. As a care professional, you know that the awful truth is that if you cannot find a way to create an informal support team or make some space for you to have some relief, your mom's best support is at risk—you.

Besides, you certainly do deserve it.

How do you get your friends and family to help you?


Gary Barg

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