Since her husband Walt's stroke in 2004, Barbara has devoted much of her time, much of her energy, and much of her spirit to his care. The stroke left Walt with significant aphasia, an impairment of communication abilities common in those who have experienced strokes and other brain injuries.
For years, Barbara has brought Walt to the Clinical Centers for speech-language therapy. A few months ago, she learned that the Centers' new pastoral counseling program planned to launch a support group for caregivers. She quickly realized the weekly sessions, with three or four participants led by two graduate students, were just what she needed. The group format and opportunity to connect with others in similar circumstances offered her benefits one-on-one counseling could not have provided.
"There's no other place around where caregivers can really vent," says Barbara. "To compare notes, to describe our problems, to offer suggestions. Our problems are really unique to our duties.
Unless you've been on it 24/7, as caregivers are, you really can't understand. I have my caregiving duties under control. Where I really need support is for myself. I don't get a lot of 'me' time."
A six-week program helped Luis, an infant with Down Syndrome, bond with his parents.