1998 President’s AwArd reciPient

CareLinks
T
Gratitude and Gifts: A Quarter Century of Caregiving
his issue of CareLinks is the last in a three part summary of the service programs of Interfaith CarePartners from 1986 – 2011. We are celebrating 25 years of the Care Team® program throughout this year by highlighting certain aspects of our history in each issue of CareLinks published for Care Team® members and Connections published for all of our constituents. The Care Team® program’s theological foundation in the prophetic and servant traditions of Judaism and Christianity was described in April. The issue featured profiles of team members in each of the Care Team projects and their testimony of how service on a team is an expression of faith. In July, we described other services that have been provided to complement the supportive relationships that team members have with the people they serve. The purpose for each of these auxiliary services was to enable care partners to live more fully and for caregivers to serve as well as they desire. In this issue, we recount some representative stories and statements of people who have been part of a quarter century of giving and receiving care. These accounts and tens of thousands more have been woven together through Interfaith CarePartners to constitute a rich and diverse tapestry of mutual blessing. The Care Team® program and other services through Interfaith CarePartners have been a catalyst by which the weak and the strong embrace to affirm and celebrate our need for each other. Little Things Are Big Things There have been 12,693 total Care Team members from 1986 – 2011. Of these, over 2,000 are members of a team today. These compassionate people have interrupted their lives to offer companionship and many forms of assistance to others at times of need. Team members typically minimize the significance of what they do with care partners. They speak of ‘little things’ like spending some time together, helping with an errand, delivering flowers from the altar, providing a ride, sharing a meal, giving a family caregiver time off, remembering a birthday, sharing a holiday, delivering home baked cookies, helping with a household chore, telling vacation stories, listening to worries, calling to say “I’m thinking about you,” enjoying activities with a person with dementia, and so much more. Each ‘little thing’ conveys two messages, ‘I care about you’ and ‘you matter to me.’ For family caregivers or people weakened by age, disease, or other condition, perhaps frightened and feeling alone, these are messages that can turn gray skies blue, despair into hope, and sadness into joy. These ‘little things’ are ‘big things’ to those who receive them. Team members soon discover, however, that they ‘get’ as much or more than they ‘give’ as they share life with care partners and caregivers. Team members and care partners soon discover that their relationship is not one in which a team member only gives and a care partner only receives. Rather, everyone gives and receives. The care flows in both directions; it is mutual! Each is a ‘big thing’ gift to the other. Caring for someone, investing emotionally in another person, is always a gift. It cannot be commanded or imposed upon a person from the outside. Caring voluntarily springs from one’s soul. Care, like love, is always a precious gift that, when offered and received, evokes gratitude in
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October 2012 Interfaith CarePartners® Phone: 713.682.5995 Fax: 713.682.0639 E-mail: info@interfaithcarepartners.org Web Page: www.interfaithcarepartners.org

Caregiving

“When you touch someone else, they touch you. You have a stake in each other’s lives.”

both persons. Expressions of gratitude have been abundant throughout the history of the Care Team program. Whether conveyed verbally or by physical gesture, expressed by team members, care partners, family caregivers, registrants at caregiver education conferences, members of a Common Ground caregiver meeting, or other person touched directly or indirectly by one of our programs, people have been deeply grateful for the care they experienced. The treasury of gratitude resulting from 25 years of building and sustaining relationships of mutual care through the programs of Interfaith CarePartners is overflowing. Power of Touch John Donne’s famous line from Devotions on Emergent Occasions (1624), “no man is an island, entire of itself ” echoes a basic theological understanding of the interdependent nature of humanity and interconnectedness of creation. He illustrates this belief by observing, “Each man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved

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“I can be forgetful, but I can ‘clown’ around.”

in mankind.” Ferne Winograd spoke about the shared welfare of humanity in these words as she reflected on her service as a Care Team member at Congregation Beth Israel: “When you touch someone else, they touch you. You have a stake in each other’s lives.” This ‘stake,’ its power to bless, and the gratitude it fosters is discovered and cherished every day by people who care for each other through Interfaith CarePartners. We can never know fully the scope or manner in which lives have been touched through our education and service programs during the first 25 years. Neither can we know all the ways in which people in every aspect of our programs have expressed gratitude for gifts
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of many descriptions that have been received. The written notes and verbal comments that we receive are anecdotal evidence that lives, circumstances, and communities are being transformed as people meet and care for one another. Each comment is part of a personal journey during a season of life during which we ‘touch’ each other in affirmation of our need for each other. Individuals and families served by Care Team members frequently are generous in their praise for the care and support received. Each ‘thank you’ or commendation arises from a situation of threat to which team members have come alongside to help meet. Family caregivers of persons with dementia who attend an Alzheimer’s Care Team® Gathering Place activity program often speak of a double blessing. Jane writes after her husband relocated to a memory care residence, “Thank you and your team for everything you have done for us. The doctor (neurologist) told me last week that John would not be as fit as he is at this point if it wasn’t for me. I attribute that to the eight Gathering Place meetings that I have taken him to each month. He received so much socialization and stimulation. I, on the other hand, would go to a fine arts class to get relaxation, rest and energy for a new day. Please let everyone know how important their work is.” Lupe’s 91 year old mother with dementia now lives with her and her husband. She reports, “Our lives revolve around her. My mom is not an early riser, so it is difficult to get her anywhere at 10 AM. However, I do my best to get her there because what she receives is amazing. The volunteers are so compassionate and totally focused on her needs. What a thoughtful idea to make sure mom gets one volunteer to stay with her throughout the time and keep her feeling safe. One day I went to pick her up and she was involved with playing with a huge parachute and balloons! She was smiling and having a great time! She caught the balloon and her name was yelled out by the volunteers. She just loved it! Finally, when it was time to leave I said, ‘Let’s go mom.’ She responded, ‘Why?’ Boy, that was so telling to me. She was having so much fun that she didn’t want to leave. As we were walking to the car she said, ‘You brought me here, right?’ I smiled and said, ‘Yes.’ I know that this is a simple story but it means so much to me that mom was safe and enjoying life. Thank you for that. And thank

you for giving me time to get to the YMCA and focus on me for a change. I truly thank the kind and well-trained volunteers who help make our lives a little easier as we deal with this deadly disease of dementia.” Dottie has comparable praise for the dedicated Care Team members who serve her 88 year old husband. In her words, “For 1 ½ years I have been caring for him 24/7. We attend the Gathering Places in our area. They are a Godsend for me. All of the volunteers do so much work in preparing the lovely programs, the great themes they choose, the wonderful meals they cook and serve, the entertainment they bring to us, or speakers. These men and women really give a lot of their time and show us so much love that money can’t buy. I go to the support group while he stays with the volunteers to do crafts, exercise and is entertained. Then we regroup, have lunch, and play bingo. Thank you for all you do in organizing and working for us.” Lastly, a daughter writes, “I can’t say enough good things about the Gathering Place program. The volunteers are so kind and caring. The program is fun and very stimulating for the participants. The program is not only a blessing for my father [80+ years old] but it allows my mother, his 24/7 caretaker to have some free time to rejuvenate. Many thanks for the Gathering Place program and blessings to all who have contributed to its success. Thanks so much!” These few tributes describe, in part, how Alzheimer’s Care Team members touch and lift up families responding to the devastating consequences of memory loss or other cognitive impairments. Team members are lifelines for family caregivers and loving friends to each guest attending Gathering Place meetings. Dramatic change in a person’s capacity to fully care for oneself is not limited to cognitive loss. Other diseases, injuries, and common losses related to aging similarly reveal our vulnerability and need for each other during periods of weakness or decline. Second Family Care Team® members routinely embrace and share life with people whose memories are intact, but who are physically challenged. One goal for team members is to help these care partners to live as fully and independently as prudently possible. Companionship, socialization, transportation, practical assistance, and spiritual support are some of the ways in which team members and

care partners touch each other, grow close, and recognize the ‘stake’ they have in each other. Although the situations and challenges of persons served by Second Family Care Team members tend to be different than those served by Alzheimer’s Care Team members, the depth of gratitude is comparable. A sister wrote about the relationship her brother had with his team. “Your friendship has meant so very much to Harry and our whole family. I truly believe it helped extend his life and surely made these last several years all the more wonderful for him. I believe too that your walk of love was an amazing testimony to him and was one of the things that helped deepen his own faith and prepare him for this time. Through you all, he learned he could trust others, not just his immediate family, and that he could also really share himself at deep levels and you with him. What a gift! My family is so grateful for your loving care of our dear brother. You opened a while new life to him. We all thank you.” A 50+ year old single grandmother gives a similar testimony. “Robert and Nanette have been with me about 8 years now. They are my shoulder to cry on, my rescuers, and more. They are there for me when I need paperwork done that I cannot figure out. . . . If I’m out of funds and need medicine or food they will get me help. Over the years, they have provided either rent money (when some catastrophe hit) or light bill money . . . gone to pick up furniture I have purchased cheap or gotten free. . . Now I am raising my 13 year old granddaughter and I can count on them for her rides to the doctor, grocery store, etc. My caregivers are the most ‘giving of themselves’ people I have ever met. Had they not come into my life, . . . I am not sure I would have made it.” A lady in her 90s tells how her welfare may depend on the faithfulness of a team member. “Marisa has been a blessing in my life. She goes out of her way to see I keep Drs. appointments. She is my angel! . . . I know there is no way I can say what is in my heart for her. She has won my love and respect . . . a friend I can talk to. . . I bless her for [she is] there for someone like me who sometimes has no one else.” A frail couple in their 70s writes, “Our Care Team members are wonderful people. They show a lot of love and compassion, and friendship, toward us. We have a blast when they come here. I just love them because they care about us. . . . . We have a wonderful time
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Care Team Anniversaries
(October – December)
Alzheimer’s Care Team® Congregations Bellaire United Methodist [5] Clear Lake United Methodist [2] Congregation Beth Yeshurun [1] Fountain of Praise [3] Grace Presbyterian [19] Jersey Village Baptist [15] Memorial Drive United Methodist [19] St. Anne Catholic, Tomball [5] St. John the Divine Episcopal [12] Second Family Care Team® Congregations 1st United Methodist, Pearland [4] Epiphany of the Lord Catholic [14] Holy Cross Lutheran [8] Hosanna Lutheran [17] Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic, Rosenberg [10] St. Anne’s Catholic, Houston [15] St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic [5] St. Francis of Assisi Catholic [10] St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic [3] St. Martha’s Catholic [8] Willow Meadows Baptist [11] Woodlands Presbyterian [14]

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Caregiving
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together. They make me feel loved and wanted. Thank God for them.” Lastly, this statement by a lady in her 80s reveals how simple acts of kindness by team members give hope to people in despair. “Not enough words to express how much the quality of my life has improved as a result of the help and friendship I have received from the team. I am legally blind, unable to drive, almost deaf. Thanks to my Care Team friends I have a happier and more enjoyable life.” As Ferne Winograd said, team members touch people and are touched by people. They discover a connection and a bond with each other that blesses all who are open to receive it. Care Team members can be as blessed by and grateful for these friendships as the people whose days are made better with the team’s sustaining presence. Valerie Moses who leads Second Family Care Team members at St. Paul’s Catholic Church said it well. “I have so many wonderful stories I could share with you about what it means to be part of the Second Family Care Team. The closeness I feel to these families truly has made me feel like one of their family. They have been with me through hurricanes and moving, and I have been with them with their personal hurricanes and the many changes in their lives. When the

sun sets, I am the one that receives the biggest blessings and joys, and am so very thankful that they have allowed me to share in their ups and downs of life.” Sharing Life Touching, connecting, bonding, sharing, enriching, and blessing are common experiences of people involved throughout the 25 year history of our programs, most notably the Care Team program. Whether one’s role has been Care Team member, care partner, or family caregiver, the relationships forged and experiences shared have been fountains of nourishing gratitude. Tens of thousands of people have discovered that caring for one another gives special meaning and fulfillment to life. Few, if any, people can survive or flourish totally alone. ‘Individualism’ and ‘independence’ may be idealized values in American culture, but, in reality, they are contrary to the nature of human existence. The sufficiency of these values is lessened during seasons of weakness, decline, and dependency which reveal the vulnerable nature of the human condition and force us all to acknowledge our need for each other. We should be reminded, at these times, that a time will likely come when we shall be in the position of those who need assistance and care now to get through one’s day.

A cold nose and wagging tail make any day better.

The hurt or weakness of others ignites our compassion and moves us to offer aid and comfort. In the encounter of the strong and weak, our ‘stake’ in one another is proclaimed and celebrated. We exchange life-fulfilling and meaningful gifts, ‘little things,’ that evoke a sense of mutual and profound gratitude for the privilege of sharing life. Whether people have been brought together through the signature Care Team program, educational conferences for caregivers, Common Ground caregiver support meetings, or other terminated service projects, the messages ‘I care about you’ and ‘you matter to me’ have come alive in a multitude of ways. As we collectively remember these 25 years of caring for one another, let us be grateful for and to everyone who has given life to the mission of Interfaith CarePartners to care for weak and vulnerable people. Amen.

701 N. Post Oak Road • Suite 330 • Houston, TX 77024 • 713.682.5995

“Creating Caring Communities”
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