Conference aims to renew caregivers
BEMIDJI - Caregivers who choose to enter healthcare fields are often born for the type of work they are in.
They care wholeheartedly for their patients or ill relatives, leaving little time to care for themselves or their families. Over time, the deterioration of their spirit and personal lives diminishes their professional drive, adversely affecting their patients.
Alice Thompson, retired nursing instructor and coordinator of the upcoming Ministry of Caring Conference at Bemidji's Hampton Inn on April 19, attests to the weariness and lack of self-care that comes with care giving.
"I think as a nurse working clinically and teaching nursing I felt so tired all the time and didn't have any source of real refreshment in my life that was truly renewing," Thompson said. "I didn't know what this feeling was about. I even counseled with people about it. They thought I was working too hard and was tired."
Thompson then went to visit a friend 15 years ago who was terminally ill. The visit was eye-opening for Thompson, who decided on the drive back to Bemidji that nurses needed a retreat.
Upon her return, Thompson called fellow nurses in the community, requesting they help plan and then participate in the first caregiver conference.
"They all wanted to be a part of it," Thompson said. "That was in 1997. That was the beginning."
The retreat hosted nurses for only the first two years, with leaders then deciding that those outside their field would also benefit from a day of spiritual renewal and information on how to improve oneself in order to improve one's professional practices. They then broadened the scope of their intended audience to include clinical psychologists, social workers, pastors and chaplains.
In the last four years, the Ministry of Caring leadership group has further broadened the scope of who the audience should be.
"We invite people from the community who are caregivers in the home, who look out for other people on a continual basis," Thompson said.
Despite their name, the Ministry of Caring is not associated with any religious practice or structured religion, but rather the development and enrichment of the spirit needed to be a caregiver.
"Caregivers historically are not very good about taking care of themselves," Thompson said. "They are always last on the list. We want to remind caregivers to keep their own self care at the top of their list."
Kate Larsen, MCC, BCC, CWC, Executive Coach and Professional Speaker at Winning Lifestyles, Inc. of Eden Prairie, will speak at the Ministry of Caring Conference. She strongly agrees that self-care is lacking and that the situation is in dire need of recognition.
"It's very much about not just an interest but a willingness (for caregivers) to put themselves as a priority for great self-care," Larsen said. "Because when they do that, they have more to give back to the people they're caring for."
Larsen acknowledges that it can be difficult for care-givers to focus on their own well-being ahead of their patients' or relatives', but this common restraint can be and should be addressed.
"The phrase I hear most often is, 'I feel guilty.' And I get to challenge that response," Larsen said. "I help caregivers to practice 'giving themselves permission' to take care of themselves."
The conference will begin with a continental breakfast at 8 a.m. April 19, ending at 4:15 p.m., with lunch included. Pre-registration ends Saturday. To register, mail a check payable to Ministry of Caring in the amount of $75 to Cheryl Yarnott at 1520 Calihan Ave., Bemidji, MN, 56601. The late registration fee is $95, the student registration fee is $25. For more information, visit www.ministryofcaring.net or contact Cheryl Yarnott at 444-7901.