The Women's Journal

Why Is It Important To Me To Be A Caregiver

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By Kristin Stetler Donovan, Owner, Age Advantage of Newark 

I’m in my tenth year providing care for seniors in our area and this milestone has caused me to reflect. I ask myself “why?” as in, what is my why, why do I continue to do what I do. 

My “Why” – Throughout my life I have been passionate about caring for others. As a young girl, I volunteered; as a young woman, I had the honor of caring for my mother and my father; and currently, I am honored to hold the title of Mother to three beautiful boys. I was born and raised in Delaware and will more than likely always reside in Delaware. After graduating from University of Delaware, I joined MBNA where I worked and managed for many years before leaving to raise my children and care for my parents. 

Now that my children are older and my parents have passed away, it only seemed logical that I take my 25 years of management and caregiving skills and begin a new chapter of my life. After losing my parents and a sibling within a three-year timespan, it inspired me to open my agency and serve those that were tired and in need of additional support. No one knows better what is entailed in being a caregiver for a loved one better than someone who has been one.

What I have witnessed, in both my personal life and those we have supported over the last ten years, is that it is equally as important for the family and support network of the loved one requiring service to care for themselves. 

Many years ago, my grandmother rushed to the bedside of my grandfather at the hospital as he had gone “code blue.” Unfortunately, in her rush to get to him, she collapsed at home and never made it to his bedside. She herself was rushed to the hospital, she suffered a brain aneurysm, losing total brain function. Several years later, I watched history repeat itself. My father, who doted on and cared for my mother always, predeceased her by two years. He attended to her every need, always. Unfortunately, in their final years, her needs were greater than he could bare. It took such a toll on him. He was a prideful man, he thought it was his responsibility and only his. My mother struggled with heart disease, diabetes, and was bowel and bladder incontinent. He did very little for himself. His focus was on her needs. While tending to her needs, he ignored his own. As a result of neglecting his own health and his own needs, he suffered from heart failure and passed well before her passing.

In opening Age Advantage ten years ago, I see this scenario more often than I’d like to admit. The loved one in need depends so much on their caregiver, spouse, friend, family member etc., that the caregiver tends to focus on fulfilling those needs, while ignoring their own. Caring for others is truly a labor of love, but the caregiver pays the price physically, mentally and emotionally.

I share this to let those that are caregivers know that you are not alone. In order to care for others, you must care for yourself. There is a saying that you can’t pour from an empty glass. It is so very important to take care of yourself when caring for others. Take a break, read a book, go for a walk, anything that brings you peace or respite. Exercise is the best source of energy and stress relief. And lastly, never forget that you are not alone. There are support groups and different help agencies, such as Age Advantage, that can support your efforts caring for your loved one. Although some think there is shame in needing or asking for help, I assure you, there is no shame.

My desire in life is to find a way to help as many people as possible, and now, together with my staff, we are doing just that. It pains me to see caregivers wear themselves to the bone caring for others and neglecting their own needs and their own health. If you feel that you or anyone you know can use support caring for a loved one, we are here, please call 302-722-8240 and our staff will be happy to assist you or visit