Who Cares for the Caregiver?

By: Samantha Gardiner, Deputy Bureau Administrator, Division of Aging and Care Services

The job of a caregiver is one of the most challenging roles anyone will undertake.  Unfortunately, there is no step-by-step manual that someone can read on what it takes to keep a loved one safe and well once he or she has serious medical problems.

Typically, caregivers are family members or friends who provide emotional, physical and practical support. But what about the well-being of the caregiver and their need for service? What happens when their health starts to decline? They can suffer serious adverse physical and mental health consequences from their physically and emotionally draining work as caregivers and pay less attention to their own health and health care.

How can we reach caregivers who frequently enter into this role without the basic skills and knowledge required? Such interventions must not go against cultural norms, threaten caregiver well-being, or aggravate caregiver strain. There is a need to recognize one’s desire to remain self-reliant, while simultaneously providing an acceptable mechanism for improving one’s knowledge and skills.

Many of today’s caregivers are women who exemplify the same qualities that these women had – selflessness, determination, patience and fortitude. These women will be recognized for their achievements, courage, strength and leadership.The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the strongest person. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of available help and support. Twelve dynamic African American women of yesteryear who have influenced and shaped today’s world and who are the role models that bridged caregivers of today are being highlighted throughout 2015 at theWaxter Wisdom  – 12 African American Women Who Changed Our World free half-day workshops.

Constance Baker Motley   

The February 11th program portrayed Constance Baker Motley who was a legal advocate in the Civil Rights Movement. She became the first female African-American federal judge in 1966. The March 11th program will showcase Marian Anderson; the first African American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955.

These monthly events will offer caregivers a source of entertainment and respite as well as a venue to receive meaningful resources to assist them with caregiving efforts. Caregivers need to be prepared financially, learn about tools, available resources and how to provide the best quality care without damaging their own physical and mental health.

Vendors such as the Alzheimer’s Association, CAPABLE Program, Chika Divine Care, Meals oninstaplace_20150211_105640Wheels, Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care, Senior Legal Services, State Health Insurance Program, Adult Evaluation & Review Services and University of Maryland will be present at each of the monthly programs to provide caregiver assistance.

There may be an increased sense of burden while trying to balance caregiving with all of the other activities and just life in general.  Caregivers need to be reminded not to fall into the trap of believing that they can do everything by themselves.  They should be sure to take advantage of the many tools and resources available to help them provide care for your loved one.  Remember the old adage, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else.”

For more information, call the Division of Aging and Care Services at 410-396-2273.

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