I encourage you who have experienced or are experiencing the role of a caregiver for a family member or a friend to leave a note here for others.

Some caregivers' experiences are sad but relatively self fulfilling.  However, others deal with  difficult decisions, or family members who have different points of view. These caregivers either manage by themselves or seek help from support groups or individual counseling.

What is your experience?  Please share it here – your words could help others

I was fortunate to have my sister living near my parents.  Together we helped my father, who was weak physically. He had a great sense of humor and enjoyed playing cards and enjoyed the last years of his life living in my sister's house. 

My mother had declined for years with vascular dementia, so we made decisions together to tighten the safety net around her as needed.  She was popular in the nursing home because she smiled, teased people, and was cooperative, most of the time.  That was a relief for us because we saw some people who were not as lovable and knew it was more difficult for the staff to help them with basic needs.

Five days a week I would cross the Mississippi River and make a decision to turn right to visit my mother or left to visit my father.  Most of the time I saw my father to be sure he had eaten and to learn how to beat him at his favorite card game. 

On the days I visited my mother, I benefited from seeing her blue eyes and holding her.  I also knew if she was being cared for with sensitivity.  I don't regret the years my parents needed me.

However, I saw a counselor for individual therapy to express my fears, which were more likely depression, and to talk about events in my family history that troubled me.  It was a safe place for me to express myself and receive support.

Since my sister and I divided responsibilities and helped each other with our parents, I never experienced the family conflict that some people do.


We're from a generation who take care of their own.  Being the oldest, not married, and retired, it fell to me to care for mom. 

I was relieved she was moved into assisted living because I knew someone was available to her 24/7.  My sister-in-law helped her decide what to take along with her, because it was harder for me because my history was there, too.  My sister-in-law was "more detached."

I wish she [my mother] had tried to take better care of herself than she did.

Former Caregiver

Dr. Yahnke:
I want you to know how much we appreciate your investment of time and talent in Project Self-Sufficiency participants. During the last year we were able to provide more mental health services through Stimulus Funds.

 In a recent survey of PS-S participants those who are receiving counseling services' have noted what a difference it has made for them and their families!

Thank you for all of your good work.

On behalf of the Mental Health Committee,

Fran Richburg
Project Self-Sufficiency

I learned firsthand how a counselor can help when you are a caregiver.

My mother lived in an assisted living facility. But eventually the severe complications of diabetics necessitated her move into a nearby nursing home. My life was already busy with a demanding full time job and family, but I still managed my mother's affairs. She became quite mean and often tangled with fellow residents, aides and even the nurses. I always felt it was my duty to be the buffer for those occasions in order to keep the peace.

My husband suffered a surprise heart attack which landed him in the hospital. The same day I was bringing my husband home, Mother got into some dispute and I had to rush over to the nursing home.

As I was pulling into the parking lot, it happened. My body started tingling. I felt so weird, I called my daughter, who is an RN. In minutes she pulled in right behind me

That's the last thing I remember for 2 days.

When I awoke (it was my turn to be in the hospital!), I learned my diagnosis was psychogenic amnesia, which is like post traumatic stress syndrome with memory loss. Although I'd never seen a counselor before in my life, I desperately needed one this time.

My counselor helped me realize that we need to do things to keep the stress level down throughout our lives. We have to know how to take care of ourselves, and what our triggers are.

Normally I could handle the stress of work or my husband's illness or my mother's challenges one at a time. But when it all hit me at once, the stress of being sandwiched as a parent myself and caregiver to my parent, my body simply shut down. It was taking care of its own self and switched into a protective mode automatically.

Over the next 2 years in counseling, I learned that in addition to taking medication, it was important for me to work on the causes of stress in my life, how to deal with occasional panic attacks, and take better care of myself.

I learned that my mother was not going to change and I did not need to be in the middle trying to diffuse what happened between her and the nursing home staff. Many families must deal with this same situation; I was not alone.

My most important discovery?

The only thing I could change was my reaction to what Mother was doing to me. This role reversal – that my mother, with her tantrums, was acting like the child – was difficult.

But I did it.

Now I only see my counselor once a year, just to see where I am, the same way I see my dentist for regular check-ups.

Personally, I do not know how people can go through something like this without talking to somebody who is knowledgeable about these situations.

Fort Collins

Lee Yahnke, PsyD, LP

420 S Howes | Building B-100 | Fort Collins, CO, 80521 | MAP | 970-631-3037