When you think of caregivers, who do you think of? Parents, adult children caring for parents, siblings, spouses, friends, neighbors….. the list goes on and on. This is perhaps because if we live in any form of community, we find ourselves in the roles of caregiver and care recipient (at the very least, in infancy!). To provide comfort, assistance, companionship to another is to be a caregiver. This can be both fulfilling and, at times, strenuous. As we move through life, we may move through roles on both sides of the equation in simple ways- receiving a cup of tea from a friend on a hard day, calming a fussing child, bringing a meal to a new family.
There are times, however, when the role of caregiver becomes fixed in our lives for weeks, months or years. This might be when a parent is no longer able to be as independent as they once were, when a partner becomes ill or injured, or another loved one needs care in unexpected ways or lengths of time. Whether these roles grow gradually or happen quickly, the person providing care takes on the role of caregiver for another. With this comes the responsibility, worry and work that go into doing this job.
The latest research shows that those who are caregivers often live longer, are overall happy and feel good about their roles as caregivers. Good news in the face of a couple of older, less positive studies. Yet, in the day to day, care giving can be wearing. The strain of worry, of juggling doctor’s appointments, work, arranging caretakers, etc can build. Often caregivers are operating with few supports, allowing little time for self-care, time away, or simply time alone. When this is the case, it can be so easy to find oneself snapping at the care recipient (and many others!), feeling guilty for not being more patient, more kind, more whatever it is the strain saps away. So what can you do if you are in this situation?
As with so many other things, there is no “one size fits all.” Some find that locating resources to provide respite or off load other responsibilities helps. Some find comfort in joining a caregiver support group, where they can share and learn from others who are walking similar paths. Others may find an outlet in speaking with a good friend or the rabbi. Ultimately, whatever thing or combination of things provides the support needed to be renewed, refreshed and able to make the best decisions in the day to day, is unique to each individual. The important part is recognizing signs of strain and trying different ways to ease the burden, so that you can be the caregiver you want to be.
If you are a caregiver, and are looking for resources, support or a friendly ear, please feel free to reach out to your congregational Kesher social worker, Rose Murrin, at the number or email below.
Rose Murrin is the Kesher social worker at the synagogue. Kesher is the congregational outreach program of Jewish Family Service of Rhode Island, funded by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, and currently active at Congregation Agudas Achim, Temple Torat Yisrael, Temple Am David, Temple Emanu-El and Congregation Beth Sholom. She can be reached at email@example.com or 401-369-0160.