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Connecting Caregivers with Resources and Support

November 28, 2018 08:09 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- Each year, more than 43 million people provide unpaid care to an adult or child in the U.S. according to the "National Center on Caregiving." The physical, emotional and financial toll can be overwhelming. 

That’s why Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota (CCOSM) is seeking out caregivers in local communities, providing them with support and resources.

Tuesday night, the nonprofit kicked off its “Caregiver Connections” campaign.

Jeff Littrell was one of three guest speakers.

“When you become very good at caregiving, you have to understand the difference between a "laugh cry" and a "sad cry",” he said as he addressed a room of people going through similar situations.

Jeff’s wife, Holly Littrell, was diagnosed with Diabetes Insipidus in 2008. Mayo Clinic doctors later told the mother of two it’s a precursor to a rare form of blood cancer.

“Erdheim-Chester Disease,” said Jeff. “Only 107 people have the cancer.”

Holly was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and Jeff became her primary caretaker.

“More than the need for caregivers is for people to identify as a caregiver,” said Sue Degallier, the Active Aging Programs Administrator of CCOSM. “We are caregivers in that we have had to change our lifestyle in order to care for someone that we love.”

Caregiving not only takes time, but it can also be emotionally taxing. 

“She’s outlived the terminal diagnosis by two years,” said Jeff. “You grieve daily almost because you don't know where that end is going to come.”

There’s also a financial strain. Over the past decade, Jeff says he's spent about $1.5 million dollars out of pocket.

“People don't understand the cost of travel, cost of meals, cost of hotels, air travel,” said Jeff. “Her medications are $130,000 to $150,000 a year.”

The retired farmer says when things get tough, he retreats to his tractor. 

“That’s therapy,” said Jeff. 

“The best thing a caregiver can do for the person they are caring for is really to care for themselves,” said Degallier.

It took Jeff three years to ask for help.

“You're not using the system. You're trying to find legitimate help that's out there,” he said.

In the coming months, CCOSM will host free workshops, bringing the resources to caregivers.

“We are going to work with some home health care agencies in the area so if you happen to be a caregiver and you can't come to this workshop because you can't leave your loved one, we will cover the cost to have a caregiver come in so you can participate," said Degallier.

Registration is now open online.

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Hannah Tiede

Copyright 2018 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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