Almost everyone cares for someone, but for caregivers the situation is far more intense than most know.
The Caregivers' Support Group started meeting in April because it needed a safe haven where it could talk about the daily lives of caregivers with other caregivers.
As co-founder of the local caregivers' support group, Cindy Little defines a caregiver as, "A person who is primarily responsible for overseeing the health or safety and general well being of another person."
This can take place in many different ways. It can be a daughter taking in her ill mother and being the only person who can give her the care she needs. Care giving could happen when a spouse has a heart attack and the other spouse now has to provide care for the spouse because he or she can't do it themselves anymore. Care giving even occurs with children who are mentally disabled or have been in a car accident and can no longer function without someone else primarily giving them the care they need.
Regardless of the caregiver's scenario each caregiver has to go to doctor appointments, deal with agencies, deal with getting burn-out and each caregiver copes differently throughout.
These situations are how the local caregivers' support group began.
Little lives next door to co-founder Marsha Costin's family. Costin asked if the Littles, who were now taking care of Cindy's mother, could help them out with transportation for Costin's family.
The Littles agreed. Immediately following, Costin asked Little if there were any caregiver support groups around here. There were none, so they decided to form one.
"It was like one of those pie in the sky ideas," Little said.
The group began with just the two of them, but through a flyer Mona Monnett made for them and word of mouth, news about their group spread around.
The group's purpose is to provide moral support and share information and available local resources as well as ideas and tips on how to make care giving easier. Each meeting also gives each person a safe place to vent away from the recipient of each person's care and outside of the caregiver's home setting.
"One of the most important things we do is listen to each other," one support group member shared at Thursday night's meeting.
Little's husband Al, who is also a caregiver, shared his insights as well.
"Caregivers don't normally ask for help," he said.
Al also said it is a choice to become a caregiver.
"It is a moral decision and people will have to live with the consequences of that," he said.
These consequences are seen when one child ends up taking care of their ill parent alone when siblings are spread throughout the country, as members of the support group shared at their meeting.
These situations can be devastating for the caregivers because they never feel they get the help they need. They have made the choice to take care of this person rather than see them end up homeless or on the streets. Therefore, alone time for many of the caregivers is next to impossible.
Al sees this type of care giving situation getting worse as the nation, which he claims is becoming more about the individual, gets worse. He said for most people, they are one person away from having no one who could step in the gap and help them if they needed a caregiver.
"I see the problem getting worse because of demographics," he said. "There is going to be more people to take care of than there are caregivers," he said in reference to the baby boomers entering their 60's.
Al said this is only the beginning of what will happen in the next 20 years. His foreseen lack of individual caregivers means more people will have to enter into institutions where there are many possibilities for abuse or fraud.
Cindy said she has found people have all kinds of excuses to why they won't become a caregiver for someone in need and Al said that people just don't come with the skills to become a caregiver naturally.
He says caregivers should ask themselves if they are doing this because they want to or because they feel obligated.
"As a human being, I thought that's just what we are supposed to do," Al said.
Cindy said sometimes the choices people have aren't always good and some people do feel better and function better in an assisted living environment.
Yet, a lot of time the recipient of care will only accept help from one or two individuals. Cindy said there is a level of intimacy, trust and comfort that is only between the recipient and the caregiver.
As shared in their meeting, this means that some spouses won't help the other one give care. It also means the little things in life, that most people take for granted, like just going home and going to bed at night are not as easy now, Cindy said.
In some situations people have to come to the caregiver's house because car rides can wear the person out who's being taken care of. In other situations, there is a loss of contact with family and friends.
Yet, the caregivers' support group is there for one another through it all.
The Caregivers' Support Group is a free group and is open to any caregiver. They currently meet in the library's Rotary Room every Thursday night from 6-8 p.m., except for the first Thursday of the month when the meeting takes place at different locations.
For more information, call Cindy Little at 653-3076.