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Yesterday I participated in a support group that's forming because so many members of our community are caregivers to family, friends, lovers, children, parents. We needed a forum to vent, to exchange insights and just spend some time with others who understand without having to explain and justify. I see myself as an independent, self-sufficient New England Yankee, but at long last I accepted the fact that I need the support of my community after going it alone for 4 years.

I was astonished to learn that the combination of psychological difficulties with physical limitations is very common. Patients confabulate and avoid and deny and undergo all sorts of emotional changes--and the caregivers are the front line receivers.

Without outside contacts and understanding medical practitioners, the caregivers are likely to become affected in all sorts of negative ways--from neglecting themselves physically (not getting enough sleep, stressing out) to undergoing psychological twists and experiencing unrealistic situations and dementia as being real events, not the psychotic episodes they are, part of the patient's involvement with his handicap.

It really helped to listen to others' stories and to share mine as well. I felt validated and much relieved to learn that anger, grief and mourning are natural responses to these situations.

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