Modern medicine and surgeries have transformed our lives. It’s miraculous to be able to overcome illness and injury. Who doesn’t hope for a cure, a way of “defeating” threats to our lives? But for some of us, we might be impacted by the medical process in ways we are not prepared for. Perhaps the person with the medical condition does not completely return to full independence. Or in the case of aging, our frail elders just need increasing assistance as year after amazing year goes by. Or it could be a combination of both of the above.
With regards to aging, in 1996 when I first began working professionally with older people, it was unusual that we’d see someone over the age of 100. It was a marvel and cause for celebration and for taking endless photographs of the elder. Now, we can see in the paper that people making it over the age of 100 is no longer big news. And it’s almost commonplace to meet nonagenarians – many of whom are still active in community life and can manage very well independently.
Likewise younger people of all ages are surviving against all odds medical conditions that until very recently were considered fatal. And like our elders, lots of these survivors return to a normal, active life.
However some who undergo surgery or are given medications to help with illness may not be so fortunate when it comes to being independent. Yes, they may have survived conditions that used to end life, but sometimes at a cost. Sometimes they find themselves with many more dependency needs – and where do they naturally turn? To their spouses, families, friends and communities. And so while the numbers of illness survivors is skyrocketing, so are the numbers of family/community caregivers.
Caregiving is probably one of the most rewarding ways we can give back to other people. Also it can be one of the most exhausting, lonely, invisible, emotionally confusing periods in our lives.
Since the population of caregivers is growing astronomically, there are so many thoughtful writings, discussions and ways to support caregivers popping up. There are more caregiver hotlines and support groups coming together.
I have a few articles and names of national caregiver groups to share with you. And I will soon be offering a caregiver support group for spouses and partners, here in Boulder. Stay tuned!
Groups/hotlines for caregivers: