August 31, 2008

Family Caregivers Need Information, Support

By Sandra J Cohen; Roger Cormier

When an elder declines from physical frailty or a chronic condition, the spouse or child is drawn into the challenging, stressful role of family caregiver. The senior often waits too long to reach out for the information, guidance and support that can avert extreme stress and harm to physical and mental health.

We recently were asked to offer such caregivers some tips in a community presentation. The most important tips we plan to share are: Let go of any attitude that you have to do it all yourself, and take some first steps toward your own relief and support.

Many family caregivers diligently and lovingly learn a lot about their relative's condition and they valiantly struggle with denial and resistance, complicated medical regimes and difficult behaviors. They wear down, and their work and personal life suffer. Resentment and depression can set in.

Other caregivers seek information on their relative's condition, tips on caregiving and medical resources. They discover classes and support groups and balance caregiving with the rest of their lives. They welcome professional guidance and the empathy of other caregivers.

Those who might benefit from such outside help can look into classes, services and support groups.

The Alzheimer's Association offers ongoing support groups and a variety of programs, including a comprehensive conference in November and educational programs on such topics as "Savvy Caregiver Training" and "Speaking Alzheimer's." Contact, 650- 962-8111 (greater Bay Area) or 925-284-7942 (East Bay). Family Caregiver Alliance has an online support group as well as classes on topics related to dementia and other long-term conditions. Contact, 415-434-3388 or 800-445-8106.

For free specific information and referrals about other programs, call 800-510-2020. For information or reservations for our free Sept. 12 presentation and lunch, call the Stratford at Countrywood in Lafayette at 925-932-9910.

Growing Older is written by Sandra J. Cohen, R.N., and Roger Cormier, M.A., of Cohen Cormier Home Care & Care Management, which provides care assessments, home care, placement assistance and care management. Reach them at 510-652-3377, 925-945-8855 or

Originally published by Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier , Oakland Tribune.

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