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“I thought I was all alone in exhaustion and frustration.”

Norma was the primary caregiver for her elderly mother. Day in and day out for four years, she would handle her mother’s money matters, doctors’ appointments, and physical needs. While Norma’s sister was supportive by phone, she lived far away and could only come a few times a year to help handle their mother and alleviate some of Norma’s stressors.
The biggest stress of all was Norma’s mother’s cantankerous spirit. In her nineties, her mother’s body broke down before her mind which created limitations to her social nature. The exhaustion and resentment was physically and mentally tolling on Norma, until she found support through the Edel Caregiver Institute at Hospice Savannah, a program funded by United Way of the Coastal Empire.

The program teaches caregivers coping mechanisms for the constant pressure they are under through group support sessions, as well as leading a lecture series and yoga classes while providing daycare for their loved ones. Norma says, “I knew I was tired, but I didn’t know a lot of other people felt the same way…The biggest thing is if you don’t take care of yourself, you are not going to make it.”

Jaime Espina Director of Development at Edel states, “Most people don’t identify themselves as a caregiver because they think it’s their duty as a loved one, partner or parent, but their duty goes above and beyond that.” Most long term caregivers burn out and pass away before their loved ones, but people under Hospice care tend to live longer, because both caregiver and their loved ones are treated.

Norma’s mother passed away in December 2018 at 94 years of age, and Norma was able to find peace through grief support from the Edel Caregiver Institute at Hospice as well. The bright and peaceful atmosphere at Edel’s location doesn’t hurt either. Making this all possible was a United Way breakthrough grant for Hospice that financed services needed for measuring data to start the program. That grant and the continued financial support of the program from United Way’s Community Fund has made it possible for people to be present with their loved ones instead of acting out of fear of “what might be.”

Norma was able to better care for her mother by taking care of herself. Norma says, “I had two options: either be stressed and overwhelmed, or let someone who knows better what to do, help me.” That help was United Way of the Coastal Empire.

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