Caretakers face challenges

By Dave Healy

Parents take care of children, so they can be considered caregivers.

However, we usually distinguish between parenting and caregiving, reserving the latter term for the care that an adult gives to another adult who is unable to care for her- or himself.

The two roles have much in common, but there are notable differences. For parents, the dynamic looks like this: Yesterday she couldn’t do that; today she can. For caregivers, the dynamic looks like this: Yesterday he could do that; today he can’t.

Parents walk a fine line: when to step in and compensate for a child’s inadequacy, when to let her manage things herself — perhaps with difficulty and uncertain results.

Caregivers walk a similar line. The difference is that children get more proficient, while caregivers’ charges become less so.

Parenting is difficult and often frustrating, but there’s a payoff: progress. Caregiving is difficult and often frustrating, without the same payoff.

In a two-parent family, the load can be shared. Many caregivers operate like single parents. Often, they have no help.

According to the American Association of Retired People, almost one in five Americans are caregivers for one or more other adults. The vast majority are caring for a family member.

With the cost of institutional care continuing to rise, the service individual caregivers provide benefits not only the people they care for but society at large.

Recognizing the important role that caregivers play, a local nonprofit, St. Anthony Park Area Seniors, also known as SAPAS, offers two forms of support. A respite service enables caregivers, who may or may not be seniors themselves, to take some time away — to run errands, attend their own appointments, or just recharge — while a volunteer visits the senior.

SAPAS also sponsors a monthly caregivers support group where participants can share challenges and strategies and empathy. In September, SAPAS held a meeting of interested stakeholders to help the organization re-envision its support for the important work that caregivers do.

To learn more about what SAPAS is doing for caregivers, contact their office: 651-642-9052, 

Dave Healy lives in St. Anthony Park and is former editor of the Park Bugle.

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