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Happy Caring for Caregivers Day 2008 

As any astute longtime reader of this column knows, there are certain times of the year when we like to share our favorite appropriate stories with you. You might call them our seasonal chestnuts. One of these times is during Christmas, when we roll out our version of “The Night Before Christmas’ aptly renamed “A Caregiver's Christmas”    Another is on this very day, when we like to recount the story of our Valentine’s Day lovebirds – Mike and Mindy…

Mike and Mindy

They heard about the session in the news that very morning. Let’s call them Mike and Mindy. I was in their town to host an information and resource panel and had a short interview on one of the local television stations, which prompted their attendance. The idea of the panel was to enable caregivers to ask questions of their local experts and receive immediate attention. My role was to moderate and (hopefully) motivate.

At first Mike and Mindy didn’t ask any questions, it seemed as if it took all their available energy not to burst into tears. Finally, their story emerged; they had been primary caregivers for Mindy’s Mom, who lived with them for over 18 years before she passed away last fall. Now, his dad needed care. The rest of the story was familiar enough, no local family except for a brother living 30 miles away who might as well have been living on another planet. The question they finally asked that day was delivered in a low but plaintive tone “How can we get away, if even for a while?” 

To me, the answers were simple enough. Their community was at no loss for respite opportunities. But as I listened while they were given credible options for temporary relief, I realized something. These folks were too drained and too lost to be able to even hear the answers given. They were like the person who needed to gain muscle strength before being able to perform a strenuous physical task, but were too weak and depressed to even start the exercise needed to develop the muscles to begin the task in the first place. 

I know that they received good advice that day and one of the agencies was committed to following up with them, but I don’t know if they will be able to find the energy to help motivate each other to the action they so desperately need. I hope so. 

The take-home lesson for all of us who empathize with Mike and Mindy is that although they have consistently exhibited real love for their family members, the people they really need to turn their attention to this Valentine’s Day (and beyond) is themselves.

The lessons of the story remain as true as the day I met Mike and Mindy.  Happy Valentine’s Day, or as I like to say “Happy Caring for Caregivers Day.”

Help us retire the Mike and Mindy saga by sharing your favorite Valentines Story.

Gary Barg

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