Nancy Thomas of Burlington passed along this comment in June about a new feature in the Times-News.
Caregiver to Caregiver is an EXCELLENT addition to the newspaper!
Straight and to the point. I like it. In fact, we’ve had a lot of similar responses since starting the Caregiver to Caregiver column by Ruth Johnson a couple of months ago. It’s the first locally produced advice column — or really any column at all — that we’ve added in about four years that didn’t also eliminate something else. As most know, space in the Times-News and other newspapers has been at a premium. Fewer pages always translates into fewer features.
It’s simple math.
Almost every month I turn down sales pitches by columnists or syndicated services. Some are local, others national. The answers are usually the same. It’s not in our budget or we don’t have the space for it.
It’s not a dodge on my part. Like Joe Friday used to say on “Dragnet,” “Just the facts.”
But I do usually listen to a pitch because an idea might be too good to pass up.
That’s the story with Ruth Johnson.
Late last year Ruth sent me an email asking about the possibilities for a column that would help caregivers — familiy members or others dealing with an aging mom or dad, grandparent or someone else close with a serious illness. It would take on a myriad problems or questions people in those positions — or headed that way — might have. Ruth, who has worked as a caregiver for more than a dozen years professionally and in private life, said she had personal experiences to share. She also had a good understanding of how various systems work — or don’t work and how to overcome roadblocks.
She thought the column could be a good forum for people in our community who face the daunting tasks of taking care of a loved one.
I knew immediately it was an idea with potential. I watched my mom and dad make tough decisions about how to care for their parents. I’m now reaching the age where I’ll face those same issues. I asked Ruth to send a sample of a possible column. She quickly complied. It was, as most now know, truly interesting and helpful information.
Finding space to add a column was a challenge but with Charity Apple Pierce our lifestyles editor we set Monday as a good day.
So far, so good.
Ruth says she is getting a lot of feedback from people who appreciate what the column accomplishes each week. They, in turn, give her ideas for future columns. That was her goal all along. Ruth wants the column to be interactive. Readers with questions are strongly encouraged to pose them. Comments are welcomed, too. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Caregiver to Caregiver, P.O. Box 125, Alamance NC, 27201.
This is an example of the kind of response Ruth is getting, by the way. Ruth sent this to me a couple of weeks ago.
“Just wanted to forward this amazing letter – a sample of the response I am now getting from readers. They are providing so much material for future columns, and I love that this column enables them to express their thoughts. Thanks again for this opportunity, Ruth”
The letter begins …
“Dear Ms. Johnson,
“I found your June 11 article regarding the letter from the daugher of a 75 year old mother who had recently moved in with her of interest. While I think a “girls day out” is an excellent idea there are many other things her mother may enjoy. I am 72 years old, recently widowed and I have been a caregiver most of my life. I was 5 when my Mother began her lifetime of illness and most days as a teen until I married, I helped tend to her needs. She was 58 when my father passed away and she moved in with my husband and myself until her passing at 92. My husband also had major health issues the last 20 years of his life and at the end Hospice and I were able to keep him in the home he loved. Yes there were days I’d rather been doing something else but someday I may need the same level of care. While I don’t want my children to have the responsibility, I know they would do the same for me as I have already seen them all do it for their inlaws.
“Initially upon my husband’s death, Hospice supplied me with a (grief) counselor whose advice I availed myself of for a year and I would recommend counseling or a support group be considered. Eventually I was fortunate to have found a wonderful retirement community to call home and while I initially thought I would just sit and watch TV I have found it to be just the opposite. I am enjoying life again! I would encourage the daughter to get her mother involved with other seniors. The senior center in Burlington is excellent and the Y offers swim, yoga,Tai Chi, etc. I take Tai Chi 2 days a week and Zumba 3 times a week — one member of our class is 85! Exercise is so important at our age to keep us mobile as is lifting weights so we can continue to get up from a our chairs! Needless to say overall health and new hips have to be considered as well as an ok from her Dr. With so many parks here, take a walk and then maybe a picnic lunch — good for both mother and daughter. Check too with ARMC; they offer many programs and there just might be a right fit. While exercise is important just getting together with other seniors who have like interests is also important. If exercise is not an option, perhaps it might be playing cards at the senior center or one of their other activities. She may find that she develops friendships that will expand outside the senior center with movie, shopping or lunch outings to look forward to. Without all of the new friendships I’ve made and programs I have availed myself of, I would not be where I am today — enjoying life again. Of course I have ”down” days and have some health issues I must be cognizant of but for the most part life is good — I even tried zip lining recently!!! Loved it!!! My children (all of whom live out of state) are delighted I am enjoying this final phase of my life although the zip lining did have them shaking their collective heads!!
My point is there are opportunities for us seniors whether at church, the senior center, ARMC, the Y, etc Check with the various senior organizations and find out what is available. If “Mother” is enjoying life again, life will be easier for her daughter who should checkout the Caregiver Support Group offered by Alamance Elder Care — she is not alone!!
I am delighted there is finally a column for those of us who have been or are caregivers; it is long overdue.
A Loyal Reader”
Letters like this one let me know we made the right decision in adding Caregiver to Caregiver. It’s a column that gives people news they can use — an old but true cliche — while making an impact on their lives.
It’s what writing a local help column is all about.