On Saturday, February 10th, Vitality Catholic Healthcare Services hosted a day of reflection and refresh-ment for caregivers in the Diocese of Camden. Gathering at the Catholic Campus Ministry Center of Stockton University in Pomona, New Jersey, guests were treated to a luncheon followed by a presentation by Deacon Jerry Jablonowski, Executive Director of Vitality, on “Caregiving in our Culture Today“, and another by Father Sanjai Devis, VC, Director of Stephen Ministry and Hospital Chaplaincy, on”Caring for the Caregivers“.
Attendees included Stephen Ministers, who through their parish Stephen Ministry, provide one-on-one support to their assigned care receivers, and others in the diocese who are caring for family or loved ones with age related illnesses. The stresses and pressures of caregiving can be overwhelming and it is equally important to care for the caregiver as well as the care receiver. It was noted that 67 percent of caregivers say they do not go to the doctor because they put their families need first, and 27 percent of caregivers are in the sandwich generation caring for a child as well as their parents.
A few other staggering statistics that were mentioned during the day were, there are about 43.1 million unpaid caregivers in the United States today, and it is estimated the value of the care these individuals provide is approximately $375 billion annually. This is equivalent to the total Medicaid funding, and two times as much as home care and nursing home services combined. Many of those providing care do so while still working and some have had to leave their jobs due to the time required to care for their loved one. 1 out of every 4 caregivers say family relationships suffer because of caregiving responsibilities.
Enormous sacrifices are often made by caregivers. Their personal wellbeing is often put aside for the sake of others which only made the Vitality retreat all the more special for those who could attend. Being acknowledged and appreciated for all they do was only one aspect of the day. Through fellowship and relating their feelings of frustration and sometimes guilt, many found they shared similar experiences and challenges. Being able to accept that they sometimes needed help and a break from the demands of caregiving was and “Ah-ha” moment for many.
The day ended with Mass celebrated by Father Sanjai with Deacon Jerry providing the homily, and then a very special individual blessing of the hands of all the caregivers. Each person’s hands were blessed with oil by Father Sanjai while Deacon Jerry touched each person’s head to bestow a special caregiver blessing. The day ended on a beautiful serene note providing all with a renewed spirit and a feeling of being cared for and refreshed.