QUESTION: My wife has multiple sclerosis and is in a wheelchair. We have no children and I still work full time as a college English professor. Her condition has worsened in the last year to the point where she can’t be left alone. To be honest, I don’t where to turn. We have many friends and acquaintances who have been supportive, but it is time to bring in a professional caregiver. I usually have all the answers for my students, but in this situation, I don’t know where to begin. Can you offer me a first step? — Jim F
DEAR JIM: The good news is that there is help available. First and foremost, ask family, friends and colleagues for recommendations—I bet there are others in your circle who have been in the same situation and can offer advice. In addition, go online and begin by searching the following two websites: American Red Cross at www.redcross.org and the National Family Caregivers Association at www.nfcacares.org. Both worthwhile organizations have developed extraordinary networks and can lead you to further resources. Closer to home, stop by your local or campus library and check in with the reference librarian. These professionals are a warehouse of knowledge and can help you determine senior service organizations in your community. Congratulations on your healthy outlook and ability to deal with your present situation in a calm, caring manner. This will lead you to help that is tailored to your lifestyle and, most important, to your wife’s needs.
Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (www.compassionfatigue.org), the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.com or Amazon.com.