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Commentary By Sally White: Honoring The Art Of Caregiving

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In my family, my mother cared for my father through a long and difficult battle with dementia. One day when I called her, she told me that my father had been up for many hours the night before. He thought there were people trying to break into the house. My heart sank when I thought about how exhausted my mother must be by yet another sleepless night, how frustrated and maybe even a bit scared.

But that wasn't what she was thinking. Do you know what she said to me? "Sally, your father was so brave. He really thought there were people breaking into the house and he was going from room to room yelling at them to get out."

Well, he may have been brave, but in my mind, my mother was truly the brave one -- she and all caregivers who face incredibly difficult situations with grace, determination and compassion, and all the caregivers who have the courage to say, “I need help.”

For 35 years, Iona has supported older adults and caregivers with skill and compassion.

Day after day, family caregivers are stretched to their emotional, physical and financial limits. And many feel alone in their struggles. Yet, caregiving is a journey that affects our entire community. The impact of caregiving on work force productivity and on economic and family stability is staggering. And as the baby boomers age, the number and needs of caregivers will dramatically increase.

One of many thing I've learned in my 25 years working at Iona is that caregiving has many faces. It's Eric, who lives 500 miles from his aging mother and participates in Iona's caregivers' support group for adult children.

It's Bill, whose beloved wife Sharon was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at age 63. Sharon attends Iona's Adult Day Health, Wellness and Arts Center, which offers companionship, nursing care and enriching activities. At the same time, it offers loved ones a respite from caregiving.

As we celebrate Older Americans Month, let's pay special tribute to the caregivers among us: family members who struggle to be good children, siblings, spouses, parents and professional caregivers to the older adults in our lives and in our community.

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