Caregivers are known for their selflessness as they care for ill family members or friends.
But caregiving can be a lonely, thankless task with a high rate of burnout. Who will care for the caregiver?
Hospice Savannah's Edel Caregiver Institute provides a variety of services, classes and respite opportunities for caregivers. On Aug. 18, a yoga relay, after party and silent auction will be held to raise funds for the institute and increase awareness of it. The event is being coordinated by Kate Doran, owner of Savannah Power Yoga, who knows firsthand what caregiving entails.
"My mother-in-law was living in Florida and was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer," she says. "She had lost her husband to cancer the previous year. She was courageous enough to go under hospice care. She told my husband and I she wanted to move to Savannah and spend the rest of her life with us. I don't have children, so I had never taken care of anybody in that way."
Doran had been volunteering for Hospice Savannah.
"I was sitting with patients and changing sheets, arranging flowers," she says. "Even though I'd done that and was very familiar with hospice services, I really had no idea what it was like to take care of someone. "I was stressed and felt unprepared. I was keeping track of her medications, bathing her, lots of things like that. Hospice was amazing in teaching me how to do that. They were always available by phone."
But Doran still felt overwhelmed, alone and short-tempered much of the time. "I had the privilege of taking care of her, but really it was a life-changing experience for me," she says. "She lasted about two months and died in the home with us and the help of hospice."
"It's a one-of-a-kind facility," Doran says. "They're plowing the way and creating a place for caregivers. There is no other place in the country that is doing this."
With the fundraiser, Doran hopes to raise money for the center and also raise awareness of its existence. "It's been open just a couple of years," she says. "It is open to everyone. You could be caring for a mentally ill child and go in and they'll help you."
Tonya Hillis is the Edel Caregiver Institute coordinator.
"It was implemented about two years ago after a lot of research and focus groups recognized that caregivers often need more help than they get," she says. "When you talk about a caregiver, you talk about someone who is unpaid, unprepared, who is not a professional caregiver.
"Most are thrown into that situation after a medical event or a medical diagnosis. They really don't know where to turn or what to do. "They don't know what questions to ask or what their needs are," Hillis says. "Our program is free to anyone in the community. They don't have to be caring for a terminally ill person, it can be someone who is chronically ill."
The institute has many services.
"We offer education and resource connections and support for care," Hillis says. "We have lots of specific classes, as well as skill classes where they teach basic care skills, like how to change sheets when someone is still in the bed, how to transfer someone safely, how to get a wheelchair into a car. We have caregiver support groups that meet three times a month. We also have lots of resources and connections. A lot of folks don't realize how many community resources there are until they need them. They don't even know they exist."
Not only does the institute teach caregivers how to take care of others, it teaches them how to take care of themselves.
"When we opened, Kate saw our program as a way she could give back," Hillis says. "She talks to everyone about how important it is to eat well, rest well, to just take a minute for yourself and do something for you. She will go over a basic breathing exercise that reduces the heart rate to bring you back to the center of yourself."
This is the second year Doran has organized a fundraiser for the institute, Hillis says. Participants or teams will participate in a relay of 100 Sun Salutations on the institute's outdoor patio, followed by an after party.
The Sun Salutation, or Surya, is a series of poses performed in a sequence to create a flow of movement
"We've done these before and the thing about it is 100 is really hard to do," Doran says. "Some people can't do it. "When we were thinking about a fundraiser, I thought this would be a perfect metaphor for what caregivers go through. Some take it on themselves and push through and are exhausted, but if they're smart, they get a team of people to get them through."
Registration is $30, which includes two adult drink tickets, appetizers, a silent auction and an after party featuring a DJ.
"What we're doing new this year is we'll have a chair yoga option for people doing the Sun Salutations," Doran says. "I teach chair yoga, which is sitting in a chair while doing a set of movements."
All proceeds will be donated to the Caregiver Institute to further its mission.
"Our corporate sponsors are Visiting Angels, a local in-home care service provider, and Service Brewing Company," Doran says. "They'll be providing refreshments, thanks to their donations." Just as some caregivers carry the whole load, some participants will do all 100 Sun Salutations on their own, while others will work in teams of two to eight who will tag in and out.
"We've got about 15 teachers who will be teaching," Doran says. "There will be a lot of variety. It's not just a marathon of one person telling you what to do."
"I think this one will be bigger and better that last year's," Hillis says. "It's a great opportunity for people to see the metaphor of 100 Sun Salutations. That's a lot for one person, but when you see a team of people, it makes achieving 100 much easier. It's a metaphor for how much easier it is to offer care to someone if they seek help and accept help. Without fundraisers like the one Kate has organized and the community's support, we couldn't do the things we do. All our programs are grant and community funded."
IF YOU GO
What: Yoga Relay to Support Family Caregivers
When: 5:30 p.m. Aug. 18
Where: Edel Caregiver Institute, 6000 Business Center Drive
Cost: $30 minimum donation
Info: SavannahPowerYoga.com, 912-349-2736