Posts Tagged ‘caregiver’

Finding Hope After Tragedy

American Flag at Half-MastWithout question, the recent church shootings in Charleston were unspeakably tragic. I hesitate to say there could ever be a “silver lining” to an event so heinous, but like the rest of the world I’ve been greatly inspired by the outpouring of love and support from the Charleston community and beyond directed toward the families of those murdered and the larger Mother Emanuel AME congregation. Most poignant, though, were the healing words spoken in court by family members of the fallen, directed at the shooter. As reported by the Washington Post: “One by one, those who chose to speak at a bond hearing did not turn to anger. Instead, while he remained impassive, they offered him forgiveness and said they were praying for his soul, even as they described the pain of their losses. ‘I forgive you,’ Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, said at the hearing, her voice breaking with emotion. ‘You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.’”

People experiencing extreme emotional trauma express their feelings in a wide variety of ways. Some respond with anger and dysfunctional or self-destructive behavior. Others turn to their faith and search for the spiritual strength to pull themselves out of the darkness. Forgiveness often can be hard to find – not only forgiveness for the one who caused the pain, but also for one’s self. Grieving people often feel a great deal of personal guilt. Could they have done more to prevent the tragedy, they wonder? Were things left unresolved with the person now departed? Why were they taken and not me?

This sort of “moral injury” is something we at Volunteers of America see all the time among people we serve. Typically, these are not relatives of people who were murdered, but rather veterans still recovering from the horrors of war, or caretakers for a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s who feel helpless to prevent their loved one’s suffering. It is often easier for these people to forgive others than to forgive themselves for all the things they are unable to do. In our efforts to care for America’s most vulnerable, we must focus not only on people’s immediate problems like homelessness or hunger, but also on the underlying spiritual challenges that prevent them from living happy, successful lives. It is only after they confront pain or trauma from the past, and learn to forgive themselves, that people can truly thrive.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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We love to talk about love in our society, especially this time of year around Valentine’s Day. Discussions of the trappings of love – the flowers, the dinners, diamond jewelry commercials on TV – seem inescapable. A new trend on social media focuses on increasingly elaborate proposals featuring flash mobs, show choirs and even some national talk show hosts. From the popularity of romantic comedies to the over-the-top – and expensive – weddings favored by many couples, “love” receives a great deal of attention long after Valentine’s Day is over.

Unfortunately, these examples focus less on true love and more on romance … which might explain why so many marriages end in divorce. True love persists after the romance and excitement have ended. True love doesn’t necessarily come with happiness. It can mean a lot of pain, sadness and sacrifice – experiences that can’t be easily summed up in a greeting card or a cute YouTube video.

Over the past year, I’ve had the great privilege to get to know Kim Campbell, wife of the legendary Glen Campbell. Since Glen’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s in 2011, Kim has taken on the never-ending and often thankless role of caretaker for her husband. Her experiences reflect those of countless other caretakers supporting those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases. These caretakers must express their love despite the fact that the memories and personality of their loved ones gradually slip away. Those with Alzheimer’s often can’t express their love or gratitude, and sometimes can’t even recognize the one taking care of them, but people like Kim carry on because of a bond that transcends superficial romantic gestures. This is the true meaning of love that gets ignored on Valentine’s Day.

And this love doesn’t just apply to married couples or between parent and children. At Volunteers of America, we employ a small army of caregivers who dedicate their professional lives to caring for others. They do this work out of a deep love and concern for other people, often when they could be doing something more lucrative and less emotionally taxing.

Thank you for your support.

– By Mike King, National President and CEO, Volunteers of America

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Kate Marro

Kate Marro with a photo of her grandfather.

Two years ago, Kate Marro was stunned to discover her 89-year-old grandfather, who was living with dementia in a care facility in Maine, had fell victim to elder abuse by a staff member. “My grandfather was pretty vague in most of hiss torytelling,” said Marro. “But not on this topic.”Marro’s grandfather claimed to have been abused repeatedly by “a burly man.”

The family saw that the grandfather’s fears were real, but believed his claims were most probably a side effect of his disability. Then, a female worker actually witnessed the abuse taking place and came forward to report it—a brave act that Marro deeply appreciated and never forgot.

This incident led Marro to the Elder Justice Training Partnership (EJTP), an innovative effort spearheaded by Volunteers of America Northern New England to marshal the resources of law enforcement—and the community—to aid in the effort to eliminate elder abuse. By telling her grandfather’s story, Marro has shed significant light on the need to improve system responses to elder abuse cases. (more…)

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