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The second year of Courage to Caregivers’ programming has been one of the most challenging and most fulfilling I can remember.
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis can’t be understated, not only for our caregivers but for our staff as well. Without hesitation, I can say that the uncertainty and fear amidst COVID-19 have increased the request for services to support mental illness caregivers exponentially.
Now, more than ever, it is essential to connect and support caregivers. Before the pandemic, one in five Americans were living with mental illness. Now, the cases have increased by anywhere from two to four times. More than 34% of Americans say they now live with anxiety or depression. How does that impact caregivers? The stress of caregiving is literally taking an average of a decade off life expectancy.
Courage to Caregivers is here to help.
Our goal is always to be in the caregiver burnout prevention business. How have we responded to COVID?
- In March 2020, we moved all of our programs to a virtual platform. We are now serving more caregivers than ever!
- We’ve added a third day to our service offerings, supporting caregivers no matter where they live, including Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina, New Jersey, Utah, Colorado, Texas, California and Delaware.
- We saw a decrease in the stress of caregiving in our one-year pilot of our Breathing Meditation program by 48% on average, and a 36% reduction of stress in our Support Groups.
As we push toward the end of the year, we have a few organizational milestones we are excited to report. Earlier this month, we had a Summit for professional and family caregivers, called “Caring for the Caregiver: Illuminating HOPE in Uncertain Times with a Focus on Connectedness, Self-Care and Empowerment.” Also this month, we kicked off our first fundraiser, called “Illumination! 2020,” encouraging everyone who is involved with Courage to Caregivers — volunteers, staff, and donors — to be Illuminators in their communities. If you’re interested in joining us, please contact us via our website.
Why have we gone to such lengths to continue our programs? Because we KNOW they work:
Stephanie, who lives in South Carolina and is launching her own business, talks to her peer support volunteer on Mondays, attends breathing meditation and a support group on Wednesdays, and then looks forward to receiving her weekly email on Thursdays. “I have more than one avenue for support. While these programs are all new, it’s nice to know others have similar struggles.”
Our programs also help people like Sally every single day:
“COVID has been a challenge — there’s more to fuel my loved one’s anxiety that was already there… My direct caregiving has increased. It’s been hard to find any programs for my loved ones or at-home caregivers during this time. The burden falls on me. I work full-time and am a full-time caregiver, therapist, cook and maid.
I look forward to the Courage to Caregivers programs every week. Getting together with others with similar stories to mine helps with my ability to cope. We’re all in this together! We share ideas. There’s not a single time I don’t take away something that I use later.”
Our goal is to empower caregivers with the tools they need so they can provide support without burnout. Our solutions include One-to-One Caregiver Peer Support, Breathing Meditation classes and Support Groups.
But we can’t continue to do this critical work without you.
Help me celebrate the important role that caregivers play, during National Caregivers Month in November, by committing to support Courage to Caregivers now!
Supporting our programs is easy. All you need to do is visit our website and donate there (no fees).
And, if you have more questions about Courage to Caregivers, I’d be more than happy to discuss our programs, program sponsorships or the services that we offer at your convenience. You can email me. I will respond to you personally.
Thanks again for the way YOU illuminate HOPE for caregivers everywhere!
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” —Mahatma Gandhi
We really have three topics this week – volunteering, mentorship, and saying no – but they’re all wrapped up in the overall idea of giving you.
According to HelpGuide, volunteering can “reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.”
One specific way we can give of ourselves is through mentorship. This is especially true for caregivers. While others in our lives may express compassion and sympathy, only someone who has walked in a caregiver’s shoes can truly understand the feelings, frustrations, worries, and logistical concerns of caregiving. At Courage to Caregivers, our Support Groups and One-to-One Caregiver Peer Support programs serve as connections between caregivers – those who want to be mentors, and those who need mentors.
As we make choices about volunteering and mentorship, however, it’s important to remember that we all need to say “no” sometimes. By saying “no,” we are able to place boundaries on our time, energy, and space. Failure to do so can leave us feeling overburdened and overcommitted … and I’m speaking from experience here. If you need help with this, and most of us do, here are 14 ways that you can say “no.”
Another way to look at it is that knowing when to say “no” also helps you know when to say “yes.” To get to your best “yes” … to give the best of YOU to others and to yourself … start by deciding what you want to learn and what you want to share.
Giving of ourselves benefits others, and it can be a powerful form of self-care, too. When you give, you also gain. When you focus on the needs of others and support your community, you can find a new sense of purpose. When you serve others and recognize their worth as human beings, you can improve your own life experience and outlook. When you give in ways that aren’t related to your role as caregiver, you can discover more about your own interests and what makes YOU unique.
Founder and Executive Director
Courage to Caregivers