I picked this book up last week at a church thrift store. The book is about a girl named Emma. She’s the girl on the cover. Emma is a caregiver. She is making sacrifices in order to care for a loved one, and unfortunately, she isn’t getting a lot of support.

“Emma had given up her job in London to return home to look after her father, but that annoying Corby Kempson declared that she was wasting her time. But what did he know about it? And what business was it of his anyway?”

Since when did taking care of a loved one become a waste of time? Some people can be so insensitive to the needs of others. Life can get overwhelming for caregivers. Speaking from experience, I know that caregivers need a community in which they can find information and support.

Three years ago I was anxiously sipping on my Diet Coke when my husband’s physician walked into his office and sat down behind his desk. My mouth was dry and my hands were trembling. Something was wrong. As a nurse, I knew that doctors don’t like giving bad news over the phone, and he had insisted that we come to his office so we could talk. The doctor had a hard time looking directly at us as he talked about my husband’s skewed lab tests, and abnormal EKGs. I didn’t know what he was trying to say because everything he said sounded vague and unreal. Then reality hit. The doctor informed us that my husband only had a few more months to live and he said we needed to get our affairs in order.

Nurses care for patients and their family members, and we are expected to be a tower of strength when our patient’s life is falling apart. Now my husband was the patient, and I quickly went into nurse mode after learning about his declining medical condition. I decided that I was going to take charge of everything. I thought that I was invincible. I was trained to know what to do in a crisis, and I was determined to play the role of the stoic wife and nurse. Of course, that isn’t how things worked out. I crumbled and started crying hysterically when one of my friends hugged me and offered me his condolences. My mind shut down, and I felt the energy draining out of my body. I struggled to care for my husband while working a full time job. Fortunately, I had a support system that included many educated and compassionate people, many of whom were nurses. A nurse practitioner gave me words of advice that literally saved my husband’s life. She told us to seek a second opinion about my husband’s medical condition. It sounds so simple now, but I never thought about getting a second opinion back then because I was so overwhelmed. I was lucky. Not every caregiver has a good support system in their time of need.

Caregivers can now tap into a new virtual community for help and support. Strength for Caring, created by Johnson & Johnson, is an online resource for family caregivers. The website is user friendly, and it gives caregivers the opportunity to seek help and share information with others through the use of message boards. Caregivers can also browse featured articles, as well as links to other websites that meet their specific needs. I encourage patients, caregivers, and health care providers to visit this valuable site. And please remember, caregivers need your support.