Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 2
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
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Conference on Caregiving Promises Insights, Networking Opportunities — and A Lot of Fun

Ellen Gilbert

“Nurturing the Nurturers,” a day-long free event scheduled for Saturday, January 15, at the Princeton YWCA, is being described in many ways by its several sponsors.

While promising “a fun- and fact-filled day,” Wisdom and Beyond Director Teena Cahill quotes Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday will be celebrated soon after the event. He suggested that “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” a question that Ms. Cahill and her cosponsors take very much to heart.

Trinity Counseling Service and the Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC) are collaborating with the YWCA and Ms. Cahill to honor, celebrate, and further educate caregivers across Mercer County. Bon Appétit is providing breakfast, area resident Donna Hamilton has secured “top quality” door prizes, and there will be music and singing.

The day will include a keynote speech by Ms. Cahill. A caregiver herself (her husband has been disabled for many years), she suggests that “caregivers are about the greatest leaders there are.” Five breakout sessions will focus on different aspects of caregiving, including “Working Women and Care Giving,” “Caring for Kids,” “Building Connections: Strategies for Building a Care Team,” “Legal Issues for Caregivers,” and “Caregiving from a Male Perspective.” Advice will also be available from participating professionals, including eight psychologists, three social workers, two attorneys, and accountant, who are all donating their time for free.

“I’ll be talking about accessing resources and building a care team,” said PSRC Executive Director Susan Hoskins. “It is so important for caregivers not to try to do it alone, to build a team, which might include health professionals, home care or hospice workers, friends and family, faith community, volunteers.”

“Caregivers are subject to high levels of chronic stress, and often neglect their own self-care,” observed the Rev. Peter Stimpson, Director of Trinity Counseling Service. “I myself, while caring for my wife of 30 years when she was dying over a three-month period, lost 20 pounds without even knowing it, only realizing it when my pants fell off while taking out the garbage one evening!”

“I think that the collaborative effort that is going into presenting this conference models the kind of team we need to build,” added Ms. Hoskins. “It is a mixture of agencies and individuals, non-profit and for-profit, professionals and those with personal experience. Each of us brings something to the conference.”

“As the baby boomers of our culture continue to age, the issue of caregiving for aging spouses and parents looms ever larger,” commented Rev. Stimpson. “We need to draw attention to the issue, and to have organizations prepare services that address this growing need.”

Ms. Cahill is emphatic in insisting that caregiving need not be isolating. “The person being cared for has to give, too,” she said, describing her “care partners” model. “They can contribute in ways that are commensurate with their ability.”

Besides the person being cared for, Ms. Cahill sees partnering potential in “the whole family - no, the whole world.” Describing partnerships that can evolve with, for example, physicians and physicians’ assistants, she sees happiness as a result of such new-found alliances. “Caregivers don’t laugh enough,” she pointed out.

“Caregivers often withdraw from their own lives, forgoing socializing with friends and colleagues creating an existence of feeling alone and unempowered,” said Rev. Stimpson. “The conference will enable participants to create aliveness and realize that having fun is possible.”

To register or for more information about “Nurturing the Nurturers,”contact YWCA Director of Mission Advancement Debra Raines at (609) 497-2100, ext. 307, or write to draines@ywcaprinceton.org.

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