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FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN  / Stronger Together /  Editorial List

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My friend Elaine is one of the first people I met when walking around town talking about an idea to create a magazine for family caregivers, way back in the last century.  She was passionately relentless in her support of what we were doing, even during those times when I wasn’t so sure it would get off the ground. She is also a real caregiver advocate and has been volunteering as a support group leader since she retired a few years ago.  (Elaine does more in retirement than most people do during their working careers!)

The reason it is so timely to talk about Elaine today is that as this email is being released, I am in Palm Beach Gardens at the 114th Fearless Caregiver Conference. We have been hosting these conferences around the country since 1998. I feel the difference between being a caregiver and not being a caregiver is many times the proverbial telephone call received out of the blue—the call that informs us of a loved one’s accident, a wandering episode or even the call from the physician with the dreaded test results. We are suddenly thrust “through the looking glass” into never before felt stresses, acronyms for nearly everything, and few sure answers to the most important questions about our loved one’s well-being.  The secret to the Fearless Caregiver Conferences is that not only are they opportunities to learn from healthcare professionals and advocates, but they act as a really large support group, with caregivers sharing, learning and interacting with one another.

That brings us back to Elaine’s story. Elaine was recently in a hospital waiting room when her husband Carl was having hip replacement surgery.  With her were members of other families nervously waiting to hear about their loved one’s surgery.  Nobody was interacting or even looking around until one gentleman started crying. Elaine and another lady rushed over to comfort him. As a result, for those next few hours, an impromptu support group formed. People who were previously strangers to one another shared stories, questions and concerns that could only be understood by their fellow caregivers. 


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