Suzanne Taylor knows firsthand what can happen when caregivers don’t care for themselves.
She knows how easy it is to build a wall, brick by brick, blocking others out from the pain while becoming trapped inside, angry and alone.
Her experience with the plight of caregivers isn’t based on the numerous people she has helped in the years while working as recreational director at Senior Come Share Society, or from when she was consulting and creating guidelines for caregivers and their loved ones.
It comes from caring for her mother as she died from a cancerous tumour, which crept up on the otherwise healthy senior, taking away her independence and that of her daughter’s.
That was when Taylor saw how easy it was to get sucked into the vortex she had been advising others to avoid for so many years.
“What I had taught people, I wasn’t doing. I wasn’t walking the walk, so to say,” Taylor said. “I was so focused on helping her, I completed neglected my own needs.”
From January 2009 until December of that year, Taylor cared for her mother, all the while balancing her own family, her career and the work she did at SCSS. Eventually, the pressure built until it began to effect all aspects of her life, and put herself and others in serious danger.
“I remember going into my boss’ office and telling her she needed to fire me because I couldn’t do my job,” she recalled. “I was physically driving into people who were in the crosswalk – with the sign and everything – I was blowing through red lights, all because I was so overwhelmed.
“That was coming to the apex of the stress and my health was deteriorating. I had a support system, but even my support system was breaking down, because I was walling myself in.”
Finally, when her mother entered a hospice, Taylor was able to feel peace again, knowing she was cared for. But seeing how easy it was to break down while trying to balance so much, prompted Taylor to brainstorm ways she could help caregivers.
In 2010, after her mother died, Taylor and the society began working on bringing in the Java Music Club – a research-based activity program designed to address depression and build a cultural of positive support in care homes and community health organizations through music and culture.
While the program has been used mainly for those who are being cared for, Taylor plans to adapt it for caregivers.
“Wholeheartedly, I want to take this and make it thrive,” said Taylor, who recently took on the role of caregiver outreach and education co-ordinator with the society. “Caregivers need someone to hold their hand through the journey, and that’s what Come Share does – from the initial point of contact, when our nurse upstairs phones them, right through to me phoning them up and asking how I can be of help.
“Just having someone say I’m here for you, call me anytime. It gives you hope.”
Along with the outreach offered at SCSS, Taylor recently teamed up with Kathy Booth at Crescent United Church (2756 127 St.) to offer a series of sessions for caregivers, set for every Wednesday in April, beginning April 3.
The series come just in time for National Caregiver Day on April 5.
Each of the four sessions will focus on a different topic, ranging from Taking Care of You to Overcoming Challenges.
“They will be very interactive, it won’t just be me talking. The point is to connect the people who come,” Taylor said.
“Caregivers don’t take the time to nurture their spirit and to refresh and uplift themselves, so through this office and the series, we are now going to go full-steam ahead with offering caregiving groups that provide support and generate a sense of community and belonging amongst caregivers to connect them to one another.”
In order to keep herself focused, Taylor has hung three framed phrases on her office wall: promote peace, show love and nurture hope.
“That’s what I want to do for people, in any capacity they need,” she said.
For more information on the society, visit www.comeshare.ca
For more information on the series, call Kathy at 604-535-0723.