Local woman starts project to help caregivers

Local woman starts project to help caregivers




Last fall, Frances Nunez faced a challenging question, borne out of challenging circumstances.

“How am I going to take care of two sick parents?”

Not long ago, Frances, a parishioner of St. Stephen Parish, Pennsauken, was depressed, losing weight and losing her hair from the stress of taking care of her parents, and of keeping the house clean, buying groceries and taking them to doctor’s appointments.

An only child, she said, “I remember feeling lonely, feeling that nobody understood what I was going through, and not knowing where to go for help.”

It was September 2013 when Frances’ mother suddenly urged her to call an ambulance. Taken to Capital Health in Trenton, her mother, Esther, was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm.

“I was afraid,” Frances said, “because I thought that would be the last time I would see her.”

Another reaction was, “How would I take care of my father?”

For much of Frances’ life, her father, Luis, has suffered from bipolar disorder, with its unpredictable shifts in mood, energy and ability to function.

The stress of his wife’s illness affected him, Frances said. He would wander out of the house unannounced, without saying where he was going. Frances spent frantic nights driving around the area, looking for him and bringing him home.

“He was exhausted, upset,” Frances said.

With multiple procedures failing to help Esther, the doctors at one point were unsure if she would survive. “The doctors came to me  to make the life or death decisions,” Frances recalled.

Esther survived and eventually she was able to go home, but the challenges continued. Frances had to take over all household duties as well as get her parents to their medical appointments. She had to take unpaid time off from her work as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at Cramer Elementary School.

And she began feeling the stress brought from being a caregiver for two parents she loved deeply.

“I really wished I had somebody to help me clean the house, or pick up groceries. I felt lonely. I wanted somebody to talk to,” she said.

“My parents are the most special people in the world to me,” she added.

Earlier this year, after telling her story to fellow students of a communications seminar, she was inspired to help caregivers who might be feeling the same way she did.

Care Package for Caregivers, LLC was founded on June 21 to help those who help others by providing them with resources and gifts.

Frances, owner and project creator of Care Packages for Caregivers, cites studies showing that many unpaid caregivers provide most long-term care, and that they report having difficulty finding time for themselves, managing emotional and physical stress, and balancing work and family responsibilities.

“People don’t often think of the caregiver and the incredible sacrifices they make for their loved one,” she said, calling them “silent heroes.”

“They should be acknowledged and supported because so much hinges on their health and wellbeing,” Frances said. She identified her mother as her own inspiration.

“I never understood the intensity of my mother’s struggles with my father until she could no longer take care of him,” she said. “I realized then how much she had sheltered me and how much I took her for granted.”

For the next two months, Care Packages for Caregivers will be raising money to create 100 packages to benefit family caregivers at Twin Oaks Community Services Inc. in Mount Holly.

As well, donors can contribute items for the home (cleaning services, lawn services, grocery deliveries); car or transportation needs (gas cards, bus passes, maintenance services); and entertainment (gift cards for movies, restaurants, theatre shows).

For more information on Care Packages for Caregivers, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CarePackageforCareGivers or call Frances Nunez at 609-560-1886, or Latona Randall, project coordinator, at 609-458-5096.

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