trumpet_line_fanfare_1600_clr_6794Five years ago when I was on a plane on my way home from a speaking engagement, the man seated next to me asked what I did. When I told him, he said, “So if I went to your website at 3:00 o’clock in the morning feeling absolutely desperate for help, would I find what I needed to get me through the night?”

I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I said, “No, you wouldn’t. My website is all about me. It’s about my speaking and my book.”

The next day I developed the concept for, a video-based caregiver support program. It took thousands of hours, thousands of dollars, and a tremendous amount of technical support, but we finally launched the website for family caregivers last fall. In January, Alex and I started co-teaching the content of our course at Western Oregon University in their undergraduate gerontology degree program.

Yesterday “Caregiver Help Part #1 – Anger and Guilt” went live on the Professional Development Resources website. Psychologists, social workers, counselors, occupational therapists and other mental health professionals can now receive two CE’s (continuing education credits) when they take the online course. (Parts #2 and #3 will be available soon.)

Alex and I are very excited to get these courses distributed nationally. People need to know that caring for individuals who are aging, chronically ill or disabled is one of the most incredibly difficult jobs any of us will ever take on. Caregivers need strategies for coping with the anger, guilt, depression and grief that comes with losing loved ones to degenerative and progressive diseases. They need to know that experiencing bad feelings doesn’t make them bad people, and that in order to care for others, they must first learn to care for themselves.

These are some of the lessons I learned through the letters my mother wrote to me during the six-and-half years she cared for my dad. In one letter she wrote about five years after Dad had his first stroke she said, “I wish I had been keeping a journal all of these years. It would be so interesting to look back and see how I have grown mentally and spiritually. I also think my experiences could have helped people who are in a similar situation.” (She did know I saved her letters, so I believe she was giving me permission to share her story.)

On the first anniversary of Mom’s death, Alex and I went for a walk in a nature park. As we scattered bird seed in her honor I had a vivid image of her walking up to God, scowling and shaking her finger and saying, “You’ve got some explaining to do!”

I would give anything if I could talk to her today and let her know the impact her caregiving experience has had and will continue to have on other people. I’m sure she would be astounded and honored, and I know she would say it was all worth it.

If you are a mental health professional and in need of continuing education credits, I hope you will check out the link Professional Development Resources.

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