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Helping the helpers

LIHUE — Having worked as a caregiver for seven years, Jeanne Cadawas understands the challenges of taking care of someone you love. 

That’s why she’s grateful for the Kauai Hospice and Share the Care Caregiver Support Group.

“I enjoyed it,” said Cadawas, who takes care of her mother-in-law. “I’m attending classes to help me cope with the issues I go through daily.”

The group meets every second and fourth Thursday of the month to provide caregivers with emotional and social support.

Stress management, self-care and relaxation techniques are part of the discussion with facilitator and behavioral specialist Dr. Dennis Pezzato. He said what they try to do is to provide a safe environment where caregivers feel comfortable sharing their experiences.

“It’s like receiving a gift, every minute of every hour,” he said about speaking with caregivers. “Doing this, for me, is allowing me to fulfill my purpose in life, it’s that simple.”

Having been a caregiver for his father who had dementia, Pezzato understands the difficulties caregivers face.

“I think that they’re the angels of the Earth,” he said. “I already had a great respect for caregivers and what they have to go through, then, when I had to be one, it was a different story and so I have even more respect. They’re doing the most difficult thing that they will probably ever have to do in their life.”

Cadawas said the classes help her learn about herself, and she wishes more caregivers would take advantage of them.

“He’s great,” Cadawas said of Pezzato. “He helps me, whatever questions I have.”

Kauai Hospice Chairman Jeff Pears said many caregivers have benefited from the program.

“The people who do attend will tell you that it’s been a life-saver for them. It’s allowed them to see their caregiving challenges in a whole new light, to find answers within themselves and to find how others are coping, and that’s a blessing,” Pears said. “Caregivers are under a lot of stress and find support through the community through education, and through other caregivers who are experiencing similar challenges.”

The meetings are held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Kauai Hospice at 4457 Pahee St. in Lihue. The next session will be April 9; meetings will run until June 25. 

Five to six caregivers have attended the meetings since they began in January. Kauai Hospice is working with Share the Care to establish these meetings. 

“To me, it’s very empowering,” said Deborah Duda, Kauai Regional Coordinator for Share the Care. “I think support groups are excellent for helping us feel like we’re not alone in the world, trying to take care of the person we love.”  

Caregivers may register by calling Kauai Hospice at 245-7277.

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