September 13, 2011

Helping the Helpers: Assisting Primary Caregivers Program

Family members of elderly patients in hospitals are often overwhelmed as they suddenly become the primary caregiver for their previously independent loved ones. As Shlomo and Sara's story reveals, they are often unaware of existing services that can help them. JDC's Assisting Primary Caregivers program provides support, information and assistance from the very start.

Shlomo, married and the father of two children, was functioning independently in his elderly years. Recently, his health condition deteriorated, leading to a prolonged hospitalization. Today, although cognitively well, he needs a great deal of assistance for all basic tasks. Sara, his wife spent many hours at his bedside and struggles to care for him. She was told how to hire a caretaker by hospital staff. But given the stress of the moment she was unable to digest this information. Ultimately she felt confused rather than assisted.

Fortunately Sara had the opportunity to attend an Assisting Primary Caregivers support group. During the session, she shared her great difficulty in dealing with her new situation, both on a practical level, and on an emotional level – the difficulty in accepting her new role as caregiver. She expressed these emotions to the group. The other participants expressed their empathy, and the facilitators helped legitimize the anger she felt, helping her see that much of it stemmed from a sense of helplessness and lack of control.

After the group Sara received detailed information and a full explanation about getting a license for a foreign caregiver - information that she was now ready to absorb and act upon.

The Assisting Primary Caregivers program aims to lighten the burden that falls on family members caring for elderly patients, and provide them with resources and support to cope with and care for their elderly family member. The program trains staff at Sheba Hospital to provide primary caregivers with support and information at the critical junction of hospitalization through regular support groups in the hospital. It also provides primary caregivers with online information and resources via a website.

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