You just found out your mom has been diagnosed with a progressive, debilitating disease.
As the years pass, she’ll need more and more help carrying out everyday tasks — things like cleaning the house, shopping for groceries, managing medications and bathing and grooming.
With your siblings living out of state, it’s all up to you.
You commit to helping mom with some of these tasks. Whether you were expecting it or not, you’re now a caregiver.
Does this sound familiar? It does to hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more than 500,000 Minnesotans served as family caregivers in 2014.
If you’re new to caregiving, you might feel overwhelmed by the demands and challenges. You might be asking yourself questions like, “Who will watch mom when I have to pick up the kids after school?” “What if dad falls and hurts himself when I’m not there?” or, “Will I be able to maintain my full-time job as I start to care for my spouse?”
If you’re in this situation, know there are people, services and resources available to help you care for yourself and your loved one.
No one should have to walk the caregiver journey alone. Tool up early. Here are two types of resources that can equip you for your caregiving journey:
Support groups for everyone
A support group brings together people facing similar situations and allows them to share experiences and advice. Sharing your personal experiences in this way can help you cope better and feel less isolated.
One myth about support groups is that you have to be outgoing to be a part of one.
This isn’t the case. In fact, group participants don’t have to share if they don’t want to — and there’s value in simply listening to others’ successes and struggles.
While support groups come in a variety of forms — in person, online, over the phone — they do have some common traits.
Groups usually consist of eight to 12 people and a facilitator. The facilitator, who may be caring for someone also, is present to make sure everyone has a chance to speak and to jumpstart the conversation, if needed.
A group usually meets once or twice a month for an hour to an hour-and-a-half. Meetings are confidential, meaning no one can share what was talked about outside of the group.
Caregivers, spouses and adult children can be members of groups dedicated to all sorts of conditions, including:
- Caregiving in general
- Dementia in general or specific types of dementia (such as Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body, frontotemporal)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Hearing loss.
To find a support group in your area, contact the Senior LinkAge Line at 800-333-2433 or visit MNHelp.info and search for “caregiver support group.”
There are many educational resources that can help alleviate the stress and anxiety around caregiving or the particular condition your loved one faces. They include classes at community centers, online articles, webinars and online chat groups.
Some valuable resources include:
- Powerful Tools for Caregivers:
To find a class in your area,
- National Stroke Association:
- National Parkinson’s Foundation: Go to parkinson.org.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Information & Support for In-Home Dementia Caregivers: Visit tinyurl.com/dementia-veterans.
- Alzheimer’s Association:
- AARP Caregiving: Go to aarp.org/home-family/caregiving.
Take heart in this new challenge. You could even find your role as caregiver to be one of the most meaningful experiences of your life.
Sam Patet is a writing specialist with Lyngblomsten, a Christian nonprofit organization that provides health care, housing and community resources to older adults in the Twin Cities. Lyngblomsten is a member of the Metropolitan Caregiver Service Collaborative. Learn more at lyngblomsten.org and caregivercollaborative.org.