Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

December 28, 2013

Woman creates support group for adults caring for parents

TRAVERSE CITY — “Serenity is peace during the storm.”

The cross-stitch in Vanessa Fox Gruenwald’s living room is both an affirmation and a quiet plea for strength.

For more than 10 years the Suttons Bay artist has given up her life to care for sick and elderly loved ones: first her father, then her sister, and now her mother.

“My full-time job is sitting at the desk,” she said, referring to her living-room office, where she deals with her mother’s affairs, from getting to the bottom of a “contract” her mom was hoodwinked into signing to researching medications and visual impairment aids to help with her mom’s macular degeneration. Once or twice a week, regardless of the weather, Fox Gruenwald also makes the drive to Cadillac where her 89-year-old mother, Hilda, lives alone.

The work of caring for others is draining both physically and emotionally. And it’s harder when a caregiver carries the burden alone. That’s why Fox Gruenwald established the Leelanau Care Givers Support Group aimed at adult children struggling with the task of caring for aging parents or chronically ill spouses.

The group will meet twice a month beginning Jan. 14 at the Suttons Bay/Bingham Fire Hall community room in Suttons Bay.

Besides comparing experiences and feelings such as guilt and anger, group members also will be able to share sitters, issues and solutions, and helpful resources, like the book “Elder Rage, or Take My Father ... Please!: How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents” by Jacqueline Marcell, whose humor helped get Fox Gruenwald through the roughest times.

“We do what we have to while we have to because it’s the nature of the body,” she said. “But when you take on a patient or the care of another, you become a patient yourself. The salve of knowing someone else understands is really the only medicine that’s available to us.

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