Making an Impact: PEARLS for Caregivers Helps Client Find Time for Self-Care

In the Making an Impact series, clients and services are featured to expand awareness of the wide array of help available at JFS and to ensure donors understand the lives they touch and the difference they make throughout the community. Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Suzanne is a loving daughter and wife with a family of her own in addition to caring for her elderly parents. She has two boys in high school and works part-time at a flower shop. Although she has a supportive husband and friends, she felt she needed some extra support for her mental health during COVID and read about PEARLS in the JFS newsletter and reached out for help.

Suzanne described the stress she was feeling being in the “sandwich generation,” caring for own family in addition to her aging parents. Her parents live nearby in assisted living and have a long list of health issues. Suzanne checks in on them a few times a week to manage their medications, finances and appointments, take them grocery shopping, drive them to medical appointments, go through their mail, and pay their bills. In addition to her parents, she is managing the life of her two sons – a junior and senior in high school – and their messy schedules that are always changing due to COVID. Suzanne described her life as being in “never ending chaos and overdrive.” She was completely burned out, depressed, and in tears most days.

When Suzanne and her PEARLS counselor started working together, Suzanne said how appreciative she was that the counselor came to her home instead of Suzanne having to take time out her busy schedule to drive somewhere. At her first session, the PEARLS counselor simply sat quietly and listened to Suzanne as she tearfully described her busy life and the rollercoaster of emotions. At the second session, the PEARLS counselor gently encouraged Suzanne to envision how she would like her life to be different. Outside of moving to Hawaii and hiring a personal assistant, Suzanne said she wanted to sleep more soundly throughout the night, have more alone time to herself, and improve her eating habits since she was grabbing too much fast food on the go.

Using problem solving therapy, Suzanne’s PEARLS counselor encouraged her to brainstorm possible solutions to her three main problems without any judgement. Suzanne found even the process of brainstorming to be overwhelming, so she and her PEARS counselor took some time to practice some slow, deep breathing and muscle relaxing techniques together. Soon, Suzanne felt relaxed and clear minded enough to come up with several different ideas to complete her goals. Ultimately, she decided on wearing a sleep mask to help with more sound sleep, scheduling one half-hour for “me time” two times a week on her calendar, and packing to go snacks for the whole family to avoid grabbing fast food. After practicing these changes over a three-month period, her depression score decreased by six points. Suzanne was ecstatic about her progress.

At Suzanne’s check-in call two months after her last PEARLS session, she reported that all her goals were still in place. She even added another hour of “me time” every week. She also continued to practice the muscle relaxation and deep breathing techniques when she was in stressful situations. Although the stress of caring for her family in addition to her parents didn’t go away, she felt that participating in PEARLS gave her coping tools to help better manage her stress, for which she expressed deep gratitude to her PEARLS counselor.