Disclaimer: I am not associated with Hilarity for Charity. They have just helped me with my caregiving journey, so I wanted to share the resource with other caregivers. I am not receiving compensation for this post.
When I started my Alzheimer’s caregiving journey, things went well at first. I felt confident I could handle it. My experience as an Activity Director was kicking in; I knew questions to ask at doctor’s appointments and some discussions to have with my parents to prepare for the long term. The first couple of years, when my life responsibilities only included me, my dog, my work, and my mom, caregiving was easier to manage. As my responsibilities and commitments grew, so did the progression. While I was building my own life, the overwhelming pressure to do it all started to set in.
The Pandemic Helped Me Find Suppot
I had been caregiving for about two years, the latter of that time including some personal growth. I was in a committed relationship and had just moved in with my boyfriend. Now I was balancing maintaining a healthy, loving relationship on top of everything else. I started a new job and tried to prove I was an asset and could pass probation and add balancing work into caregiving. I was determined to eat healthily and be financially responsible, add adulting to my balancing act. My mom was progressing, and things were getting worse, just another helping added to my growing plate.
The COVID-19 Pandemic hit the hardest. Surviving the pandemic on a physical and emotional scale was hard. Being a caregiver and making personal choices that could put my family at risk made things even more challenging. The stress was getting to me, and I began to break down. I was hysterically crying in the shower, thinking my boyfriend couldn’t hear me; I found out later that he heard everything. I was committing my life to everything and everyone else around me. It felt like I was constantly running on empty, and yet I kept going.
My First Attempt At Therapy
Overwhelmed and hitting my breaking point, I finally used my work’s employee assistance program to seek therapy. Hoping to get the caregiving support I truly needed, I laid everything on the table.
And then the worst outcome happened. Instead of helping, the therapist focused on her engagement quota. She continued to tell me that I needed to engage more to meet the expected number of sessions provided to me by my work. She wanted me to use up my sessions because then I would have to buy more sessions. Another responsibility added to the list Now, I had to make sure I called this stranger to the right frequency of her standards. I had to help this stranger that was supposed to be helping me! WTF! It didn’t take long for me to want to bail. Even though it was an awful experience on my end before I jumped ship, the therapist did tell me to research young caregiver resources. I did, and my life has changed ever since.
Enter Hilarity For Charity
A Google search linked me to HFC. I finally found a resource that I understood. Reading about the nonprofit gave me hope.
Founded in 2012 by Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller Rogen, HFC is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to care for families facing this disease, educate young people about living a brain-healthy life, and activate the next generation of Alzheimer’s advocates.https://wearehfc.org/about/
Finally, an organization catered to young caregivers like me. They focused on the hardship of balancing life and caregiving as a caregiver under 40. The resources on the HFC website hit home for a young caregiver. Then I found the thing that would change my caregiving journey for the better. HFC offers free online support groups led by a licensed social worker who understands Alzheimer’s. I signed up. It took a couple of weeks, but finally, I met my group of amazing young women on their own young caregiver journey like me. The connection was instant.
My Support Group
It only took a few sessions, but I was hooked. Monday nights, I had a group of women that understood. A group that nodded when I told my Alzheimer’s caregiving stories. A group that I nodded for when they told me theirs. I finally had people my age that got it that it wasn’t just caregiving; I was caregiving for my parent that I thought, at this age, would still be able to help me. The person that was supposed to protect and be there for me was now the person I was protecting, advocating for, and taking care of. It is a responsibility not many can understand unless they have lived it or are living it. Had I known that the support group would have been this amazing, I would have signed up on day one of my mom’s diagnosis.
We are starting our third 10-week session next week. When the social worker asked for feedback without even hesitating, I told the group my crying had stopped. Having the support I needed had taken some of the caregiving weight off. Group was exactly what I needed to keep things going.
What Support Do You Have?
I realize this entire post sounds like an advertisement for HFC, and I want to tell you it is and it isn’t. I don’t get anything out of this. Caregiving is a tough thing to do alone. I am sharing my resource with you because I want to make sure you, the other young caregivers out there, have it. If you are unsure about a support group, I would suggest giving it a try. You might be surprised to see the connection you feel with the others in the group. You might be surprised to find you don’t need to be in the same room to feel a connection. Maybe you will feel like I do; a weight is lifted to talk to people that truly get it.
Do you have a different way to get support? Have you tried HFC? Share it in the comments below. Help other caregivers connect with resources that are out there for them.