Submitted by Annette Morrison, CRS-A/D, M.S., CCSI Case Coordination LLC
A few years ago, I sat in a movie theatre with my husband and daughter, watching Disney’s new movie, Maleficent. We all thought we knew the story. As it turned out, Disney slid a new take on this classic fairytale—spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it—throwing in the kiss that woke Sleeping Beauty up and saved her… not from the boy she had just met and was enamored with, but from the caregiver who struggled through a love/hate relationship with her, Maleficent.
I can’t help but look at that dynamic through the eyes of the caregivers we work with through the CCSI Case Coordination LLC Caregiver Advisory program. Maleficent, a magical creature who loved life and freedom and flying—whose life experiences stole her freedom, her wings, and she became bitter. In her heart, she was still kind and that kindness, though reluctant at first, extended to the nearly abandoned Aurora whom she had first cursed out of bitterness and anger. Aurora was left in the charge of three bumbling fairies. If it weren’t for Maleficent in this version of the story, Aurora might not have ever lived beyond infancy. Her caretaking of Aurora was at first reluctant and from a distance, not wanting to commit to any responsibility. A helper, a shape shifting crow-fairy, frequently gave Maleficent tips and tricks to help keep Aurora alive. Aurora started calling Maleficent “Fairy God-Mother.” An unlikely bond developed between Maleficent and Aurora. The joys of sharing her magical world and the wonder of seeing it anew through Aurora’s eyes helped Maleficent shed some of her bitter feelings and reacquaint with the wonder of what was left to enjoy in her world, to see what was truly important.
For one of our caregivers, Alicia, this situation is similar. Alicia and her mom were a lot alike, but because of this it sometimes effected their interactions in a negative way and over time their relationship became strained. Judith started showing signs of Alzheimer’s-like behaviors and a friend reached out to Alicia to share concerns at how Judith was not coping so well. At first, Alicia, who lived downstate from Judith, would come up on weekends and help with grocery shopping, housekeeping, and minor repairs or money management. As Alicia and Judith’s relationship started to heal with the frequency of contact, Alicia was able to see what Judith was struggling with and tried to put supports in place to assist her mom during the week. A symptom of her cognitive decline, Judith became suspicious of other caregivers. Judith did not have the resources to move to an assisted living or hire a live-in caregiver. As an only child, Alicia came to the conclusion that she would need to move upstate to stay with her mom—a major life change. Alicia recognized she was lucky to be able to do this for her mother, as she was single and did not own a home. Alicia would be giving up a great job and a fairly care-free lifestyle to take on a tremendous responsibility. Her Mom had no one else who would do this for her. For Judith, this is the love that would save her.
An old class-mate ran into her while out grocery shopping one day and through the conversation, Alicia learned that there are resources that can help caregivers take the pressure off, help them understand their role, and what might need to be more of a priority—a consultation offered through a type of specialist called a Caregiver Advisor. To compare it to the Maleficent story, a shifting crow-fairy—a Caregiver Advisor meets with the Caregiver (and their loved one, if needed) to discuss ways to decompress their role. Whether it be through offering a support group to attend, respite services to help the caregiver get away for a while, gap fill funds to purchase special assistive technology, or simply referrals to other programs or agencies who have specialized programs to meet their particular needs—the Caregiver Advisor is your advocate and understands how stressful it is being the one shouldering the responsibility.
At CCSI Case Coordination LLC, the Caregiver Advisor oversees seven Caregiver Support Groups in DeWitt, Livingston, and McLean Counties. Support Groups empower caregivers to voice their concerns, share their trials, and celebrate their solutions with other caregivers. A Caregiver Advisor can meet with you to discuss your specific situation and come up with a plan to give you direction and peace of mind. Like the producers at Disney for Aurora and Maleficent, Alicia and Judith came to understand that love comes in different forms, shapes, and sizes. As most caregivers know—and many care-receivers understand—an unlikely caregiver can be the love that will save you. With a little help from a shape shifting crow-fairy!
To make your one-on-one appointment with the Caregiver Advisor, contact CCSI Case Coordination LLC at 309-661-6400. We are located at 3601 G.E. Road, Suite 2, Bloomington, IL 61704. Services have no cost, but donations are always graciously accepted. No one is ever denied assistance based on the inability to pay. Funding is provided through ECIAAA and IDOA.
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