Janice McDonald drives her 85-year-old mother every Friday on their weekly trip to the hair salon.
Janice McDonald (left), of Augusta, helps her mother Eleanor Steele, 85, of North Augusta, out of the car as they arrive for Steele's hair appointment at Le Petit Salon in North Augusta. McDonald has been acting as her mother's caregiver for several years, even though she only retired at the end of 2002. She said, "You do what you have to do."
Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker
But that's just one of the regular trips the Augusta woman makes to North Augusta to care for her mother, Eleanor Steele, who is physically limited by heart disease, arthritis and an inability to drive.
McDonald is one of 30 million Americans who act as primary caregivers for a loved one, whether it be a parent, spouse, child, grandchild or friend.
"Most families take care of their seniors,'' said Georgia Jopling, a caregiver specialist for the Regional Development Center's Agency on Aging. "Most of them work full-time, and a lot of them don't self-identify themselves as caregivers. They'll say, 'Oh, I'm just helping Mom out a little bit.'"
With November being National Family Caregivers Month, McDonald, a member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans, recently contacted Jopling's agency to set up an informative seminar for caregivers called Caring and Coping as Families Grow Older.
The free class is slated for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the church at 825 North Belair Road.
There will be several speakers discussing topics for caregivers, including legal matters such as power of attorney, living wills and guardianship; spiritual and emotional guidance; safety; Medicare and Medicaid; support services; and training, Jopling said.
"There are all kinds of questions in people's minds that I hope that some of our speakers will be able to answer," McDonald said.
"At least if they can't answer them, give them a resource they can go to. Resources are what's important."
McDonald said she has been her mother's primary caregiver for several years, providing some meals, cleaning and transportation to doctors appointments, drug stores and shopping centers. She retired at the end of 2002, so much of the care-giving was done while she worked a full-time job.
"It was tough, but you do what you have to do," McDonald said. "It's just the stress of knowing that extra responsibility is yours. ... It's just that when I was working, knowing that my time was not just mine, knowing that responsibility was there, and you always have to consider that before making any other plans."
Jopling said many caregivers get wrapped up in taking care of a loved one and often forget about themselves.
"The caregivers get lost in it," she said. "Sometimes they get burned out and frustrated. One of the things we are really hoping to promote, when you are caring for someone, stop and think about yourself."
Jopling, who organizes the agency's support group for caregivers, said she helps caregivers connect to needed resources, but sometimes all they need is to talk to someone and exchange ideas.
"Just (talk to) friends, friends that are doing the same type of thing," McDonald said.
Taking time for relaxation and exercise or some other private time is almost as important as keeping a good sense of humor, she said.
"That's a biggie," Jopling said jokingly.
Breakfast will be offered at the seminar, which is being put on by the agency, the church and the St. Joseph Center for Hospice and Palliative Care.
Preregistration is requested. You can register by calling 869-0888 or by sending an e-mail to office@Wesleyumc.net.
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