Taking care of an ill or aging family member can be a physical and emotional drain. Orange County’s Family Caregiver Resource Center, with its many free services, can help ease the burden.
Constant care of another person—visiting, calling, meeting with doctors, monitoring medications, managing finances, shopping for groceries, preparing meals—takes so up much energy that caregivers lose track of their own needs.
“At the end of the day, they care for loved ones, not themselves,” says Stephanie Pizzola, MA, a gerontology family consultant and education coordinator at the Family Caregiver Resource Center (FCRC). “We can help them avoid depression and burnout.”
Orange County residents are fortunate to have the Family Caregiver Resource Center, a nonprofit organization, right in their back yard.
“We provide free services to family caregivers who don’t get paid to provide care,” explains Pizzola. “This means loved ones of adults with cognitive impairment from MS, Huntington’s Disease, a head injury, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or dementia. We’re there to support the family caregivers as they try to negotiate the challenges.”
One such service is a three-week, 90-minute class called Journey of Caregiving, which will be offered at various locations throughout Orange County this year. It’s designed to provide family caregivers support and guidance for developing self-confidence and problem solving skills, as well as strategies to reduce stress, guilt, anger and depression.
“We try to bring caregivers back to an awareness of their own identify, their unique stress identifiers so they know when they need to take a break,” says Pizzola, adding that in the Journey of Caregiver classes, caregivers learn helpful mantras and positive self-talk techniques.
“Many people add shame to the burden of worry, sadness, anger, and dread over a family member diagnosed with a serious illness as they struggle with ambivalence toward the caregiving task that looms ahead,” writes Barry J. Jacobs, PsyD in his book The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent. “[But] ambivalence toward caregiving should be considered a normal, expectable reaction that doesn’t invalidate your love or devotion to your ill family member.”
Having a safe place to express all these uncomfortable, bottled up feelings is key and caregiver support groups provide huge relief. “We put caregivers with other caregivers, and this can be cathartic for them,” says Pizzola. “Once they identify as a caregiver, they’re more likely to take advantage of services.”
Aging baby boomers = more caregiving needs
As Baby Boomers ages, the services offered at FCRC will become critical to more and more people. Free counseling, respite planning, resource referrals, tips for hiring in-home help, and in-home assessments that lead to creating self-care plans for the family caregiver are available at FCRC. “We help caregivers put together a self-care plan so they can step back and evaluate the situation they’re in,” says Light, who also leads the St. Jude Brain Injury Network for families caring for loved ones with brain injuries.
The Family Caregiver Resource Center has a long reach in Orange County. “We work very closely with 10 nonprofit community-based agencies serving seniors,” says Light. “We want caregivers to feel there is a whole community of services out there.”
The Family Caregiver Resource Center is located in the St. Jude Community Services Building, 130 West Bastanchury Rd. Fullerton, CA 92835
(This story originally appeared in OC Catholic, February, 2017)
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.