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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN  / Guilt No More /  Editorial List

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 Guilt, No More

Next week marks the tenth anniversary of our Fearless Caregiver Conferences. Since 1998, we have held 67 conferences in sixteen cities around the nation, with a total of more than 25,000 attendees. The events began as a way to bring family and professional caregivers, as well as local and national advocates together for the day. The late television actor Robert Urich was the keynote speaker for that first event, having recently shared his cancer diagnosis and remission on national television. Two things were evident throughout the day, the first thing was that we caregivers love to share ourselves with one another, and the advice shared is as effective and appropriate as could ever be found from any degreed professional.  The reason for this is simple: the family caregiver is the person caring for their loved one around the clock and intuitively creating solutions for the challenges faced on a daily basis. The other thing that was evident that day was that caregivers helping loved ones with differing diagnoses and caregiving situations could learn from one anotherís experiences.

As illustration, I recall a luncheon table during that first conference with four caregivers sitting around it. Their main care concerns were (respectively) AIDS, Parkinsonís, Cancer and Alzheimerís disease. As I listened in on them, they were reveling in the fact that each of them brought different but powerful experiences to the table. The caregiver whose loved one was living with AIDS was talking about managing a difficult medication regime, the Alzheimerís caregiver was sharing her challenges with the long term care facility in which she had just placed her loved one and the Parkinsonís caregiver was talking of solutions he had come up with regarding his loved ones increasingly limited mobility.

The areas of interest and the skill sets these caregivers brought to that luncheon table were both unique and of specific value to their fellow luncheon companions. Through all of the camaraderie and sharing at the events over this past decade, we have been gratified to hear countless stories of great love, devotion, humor and courage as well as stories involving feelings that that no caregiver deserves, such as caregiver guilt. Although guilt is a real feeling for so many of us, it is one of the many things that I hope we will be able to one day erase from the concerns of our fellow caregivers. As the caregivers at the luncheon learned so many years ago, I think the answer is to share our solutions with one another. So pass the bread and let's start talking: When have you felt caregiver guilt and how have you dealt with it?



Gary Barg

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