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Giving Thanks: A Shout Out for Family Caregivers

24 Nov

2153bIt's Thanksgiving week, and I'm thinking about a colleague I met at a conference a while ago, who told me about the challenges she was facing from dealing with her traumatized husband while he was in the first stages of posttraumatic stress and probably TBI (traumatic brain injury) after a terrible accident that left him with broken bones, chronic pain and a state of constant fury.

They'd been married for 45 years and were totally devoted to each other, but his constant rages were hard for her to endure. She told me, "You know, I never for a minute considered divorce, but MURDER?? Definitely!"

We have many military families dealing with similar scenarios, taxed to the limit physically, emotionally and financially. It can be a heavy, exasperating, nonstop burden, infused with grief for all that's been lost.

Depression in family caregivers is rife. Some feel so trapped, they think about suicide.

And of course we hear all the time from family caregivers of dementia and Alzheimer's patients, too. Aside from the drain on resources and all the physically exhausting work, there's an immense heartbreak and frustration there too, that comes from seeing a loved one no longer being the person they were. Now they're behaving strangely, or they're utterly blank, with only rare flashes of recognition or awareness or speech. They're breathing but they're gone.

These situations become especially poignant with the approach of the winter holidays, when the combination of nostalgia for lost times, the extra work load, and demand to be merry and jolly can combine to produce some extra-special misery.

2395BFor Thanksgiving these unsung family heroes should get thanks. And offers of some respite help or some home cooked food or a massage. Something.

No wonder November is National Caregivers' Month! So before it disappears altogether, let me call attention to a couple of guided imagery audios that specifically target caregiver stress and distress.

Steve Kohn and I created the music and imagery for Help for Caregiver Stress back in 2009, precisely for those family caretakers who've grown weary, disheartened or even claustrophobic from having taken on a taxing level of physical and emotional care.

The meditation is designed to return caregivers to a more balanced, centered state, uplift mood, restore energy, affirm self-esteem, reduce feelings of isolation and resentment, and renew motivation to carry on.

There's a separate track of affirmations that offers briefer versions of the same images and ideas, but in a format that can be used while doing other things – even drivig.

And Dr. Lynn Joseph has a terrific, 7-track guided imagery audio program called Emotional Renewal for Caregivers-Looking After Yourself while Helping a Loved One which is just spot on for hitting all the issues and offering some wonderful imagery plus real direction and help. She's knowledgeable, compassionate and comprehensive – a truly trustworthy guide with a lovely voice and a lot of understanding.

Her segments include an Intro with Advice, and imagery segments for: Boosting Self-Love, Planning a Smooth Day; Healing Stressful Feelings; Connecting with Your Future Self; Sleeping Soundly; and much more.

Here's wishing everyone a lovely Thanksgiving week, with a special hats off to family caregivers.

All best,

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award.