Cyndi Mariner is a long-time resident of Sunnyvale and a family caregiver. In this blog post, she shares her experience as a participant and Program Coordinator of the Meet and Move program for family caregivers, sponsored by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and El Camino Hospital.
In the spring of 2014, I was living with and caring for my brother, who suffered from heart problems, and my 84-year-old mother who had suffered from arthritis. She had just been released from the hospital and rehab after a serious case of pneumonia. I was an overwhelmed, stressed out family caregiver who was not taking care of herself. I happened to glance at a local paper, not something I usually do, and saw an ad for a program called Meet & Move. Little did I know, taking the step to attend the informational session would lead to big changes for my life. I joined the group and after just three months, I realized the difference the program was making in my life. I started taking care of myself by exercising more and making new connections. I started “breathing” again, allowing myself to better care for my loved ones.
It’s been more than one year and I am now the program coordinator for Meet and Move. Just six months ago, we continued with a year-long pilot of Meet and Move and now, over 75 family caregivers have joined. We see each other at weekly walks, meet on a monthly basis to learn about additional resources and tools, get together every so often for potlucks and fun outings, and connect in a private online group on the linkAges TimeBank website.
In just a short time, we have built a community of caring, supportive caregivers that are in the trenches and figuring out how to survive while being supportive to their loved ones. These are people caring for family members that were once able to care for themselves, and their journey has taken them to a point where they are no longer able in the capacity they were once used to. Caregiving is not for the faint of heart; it is consuming, extremely exhausting, emotionally draining and often with little or no replenishment for the caregiver.
Meet and Move enables our community of caregivers to speak their truth in a caring environment of people that get it. Whether it is crying, laughing, venting or finding resources, this group has enabled people to realize they are not alone. On a recent walk, our group came up to this sweet writing on a sidewalk. It speaks volumes; “A simple act of caring creates an endless ripple that comes back to you.”
One day, the caregivers will likely lose the family member they were taking care of and the ripple effect starts taking effect in even greater force. Each day a caregiver gives — and in the end, realizes that what they have done is immeasurable.