Caring for the Caregiver

“If you give all of yourself to caregiving, you will run out of self to give,” said Dr. Jacke Harris, retired clinical psychologist and VISTE volunteer. Harris conducted the VISTE Coffee and Learn seminar on Aug. 12 and discussed how caregivers can care for themselves as well as for their loved ones.

VISTE serves individuals aged 70 and older. With that age demographic, it comes as no surprise that there are caregivers involved with our clients. Also, with the average lifespan of the American male at 75 years and the American female at 80 years, some of our clients are also caregivers themselves.

Harris & an attendee after the seminar

Harris & an attendee after the seminar

They are caring for spouses, children, and even grandchildren in some cases. And that extra exertion puts great stress upon caregivers, which is why they individuals in that capacity need to learn to care for themselves as well as for their loved ones.

“Caregivers have 65 percent more illnesses than anyone else,” Harris said. “Aging isn’t for the timid.”

“It isn’t for the young either,” injected one attendee.

Harris advised that caring for yourself is one of the most important – and one of the most often forgotten – things an individual can do as a caregiver.

“Caregivers are very, very neglected by our society,” Harris said. “Volunteers are the backbone of caregiving in our society. Volunteerism works. It makes this nation great.”

Harris encouraged caregivers to join support groups and to seek social support. “We need to do more things together. Getting old and being a caregiver is messy. Life is messy. We elevate it by volunteering and by treating other people as important.”

He also encouraged caregivers to accept the help of others, whether other family members or friends or the assistance of volunteers through agencies or churches or social groups. “We also have paid caregivers now.”

“As caregivers age, their limitations increase as well,” he said. “Know that you are limited. You can’t do everything. We need one another.”

“People relate to the reality of the people we are relating to,” Harris said. “There can be joy in taking care of the mother who cared for you. But you have to care for yourself, as well.”

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