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Reflection: Connecting and Caring

Tribute in Light for September 11th - image courtesy of iStock

Around the world, people have been reflecting this week on the events of 15 years ago on September 11th. As a native New Yorker (pronounced “Noo Yawkuh”), I can tell you that there was a tremendous lesson learned in those tragic moments and the horrifying aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center. It is a lesson that I hope that the collective WE can learn, understand, and apply in their lives:

We don’t have to like each other, but we have to get along. We MUST work together in order to survive and live better lives.

I am sharing these thoughts because in the aftermath of a major catastrophe such as September 11th, it is clear that we all became Caregivers as well as the recipients of sympathetic or empathetic actions of others. Thoughts about our differences disappear when we face a common threat, be it a natural disaster or some preposterously heinous act perpetrated by human beings that define us as Other.

Caring for one another in moments of crisis appears to be natural for many, if not most of us. Adrenaline generated by the “Fight or Flight” response helps us get through the first day of the emergency, but then what? When we profiled Joe Conzo, Jr. about his work as a First Responder, he spoke about the value of counseling and the importance of have a support network to help in the mental/spiritual healing process. So who cares for the Caregiver?

Whether you are taking care of an elder, a person facing a significant health challenge, or someone dealing with an extreme personal crisis, your energy is focused outwardly. That is right and proper. It also can be a recipe for disaster if you don’t take time to recharge your own batteries. You have to figure out how to metabolize the toxic effects of seeing your loved one’s suffering and most often that means talking to someone that we trust.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is far too often discussed as something that happens when people somehow aren’t mentally tough enough. No matter the trauma, when a certain amount of time has passed folks will say some variation of “Just get over it and move on.” As blunt as it is, there is a grain of truth in the statement: we must indeed move forward with our lives. But, figuring out how to get over it is the real question. And that brings us back to caregivers.

If you are providing care and support for someone in need, you must have a plan for yourself. You just can’t keep putting out that type of energy forever without consequences. And there is help out there. In my hometown for example, the New York City Department for the Aging website features Caregiver Support that includes local resources as well as links to organizations such as the Family Caregivers Alliance and the National Alliance for Caregiving. These organizations speak to a need that went unaddressed for far too long because people tend to keep their feelings on such deeply personal matters private. That is fine…until the caregiver can no longer keep burning the candle at both ends, and then it becomes another crisis to be dealt with.

Let’s Check-In provides caregivers and other key populations the unbiased human connection and support that so many caregivers need before they hit the breaking point. Someone with an objective ear who listens to you without judgment, giving you room to breathe and to offload some of the stresses you deal with on a daily basis. We’re here 24/7/365, so don’t be afraid to reach out!

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