Updated: October 13, 2021 07:53 PM
Created: October 13, 2021 04:36 PM
Jerry Lilja and his wife Joan have been married for 55 years. But the journey is changing, now that Joan has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Jerry is her caregiver. "I think of myself as a care partner. We're on a journey together. How do I take care of myself, and be the best partner on this journey."
Care Partners of Cook County offers support to caregivers. And in the spring of 2020, right before the pandemic hit, they brought a dementia specialist to Grand Marais for a mindfulness workshop.
Jerry wasn't sure if he wanted to go. But he did attend, and it helped him confront his new reality of being a caregiver. "It was a liberating thing, to be able to say that," he recalled.
Michelle Barclay helped him a group of about 20 caregivers, by sharing with them a variety of mindfulness practices.
She told us it's about working on the stress. "Keeping people in the present moment, as opposed to worrying about the past, oh did I mess this up. Or in the future, which can also be a place of what ifs?"
One practice is called sitting with. "We talked about slowing down, and being with someone at their own pace. Often we are interacting with people to do a task, without stopping and seeing how they are doing, and connecting," she added.
It's also about focusing on the good things. Jerry said he and Joan have made changes that have brought them together in new ways.
The Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation has awarded Care Partners the Touchstone Award for their work bringing mindfulness to the caregivers.
Kay Grindland, executive director of Care Partners, aid she was really grateful for the award. "I think some of the funds we get can help more people get access to the online class. Regular practice really does make a difference."
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