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The Secret to Being a Happy Caregiver

Joan Lunden
By Joan LundenOctober 24, 2013

Camp Reveille 2013 provided caregivers some time to reflect, relax, bond with other women, and most importantly — have fun.

Discover how this unique getaway, where spa meets summer camp, provides insight into what caregivers need — and all from the camp’s creator, former Good Morning America news anchor and A Place for Mom spokesperson, Joan Lunden.

Joan Lunden Looks Back on Camp Reveille 2013

Now that summer has come to a close and the kids are back in their school routine, I can take a breath and reflect on our 2013 Camp Reveille session and the experience for our attendees.

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While I’m always thrilled to see so many women return to Camp Reveille each year (we have quite a few that have returned for five consecutive years!), it was really exciting to see this August bring our largest group of campers yet. With nearly 200 women who represented 26 states, ranging in age from young 20s to mid-70s — both Reveille veterans and newbies — the camp energy and positivity was profound. It was as if a spark was lit when everyone got there — and that ebullient excitement continued for 4 days of learning and fun.

Having a diverse range in ages has been really interesting; instead of separating the women, it actually helped to bring them together. The older ladies really enjoyed seeing the younger gals be spontaneous and a bit wild, and the younger women valued their engagement with these knowledgeable and experienced women. I saw lots of long conversations taking place with the older women often handing-down life advice. It was quite heartwarming and inspiring to witness.

Catering the Daily Agenda to the Individual

Camp Reveille boat racing bonding and camaraderie.

We work hard to ensure our camp agenda offers traditions from past years — along with new and fun features — so we can offer multiple activity options for everyone. We also keep in mind the intentions of our attendees.

For example, why have they chosen to attend camp and what are they hoping to get out of their time here? For many, it’s about leaving the stress of work and/or family behind with the goal of decompressing. Some may have gone through a difficult and emotionally trying event, causing them to need a break and prepare for a fresh start.

One thing most campers have in common is the need to learn how to have fun again! As women, we tend to get so focused on our jobs and our families, we forget what it’s like to just let loose and play. Many caregivers haven’t had the opportunity to partake in fun events — let alone think about it — as they juggle life responsibilities on a daily basis, and caregivers really need that mentalbreak.

At dinner the first night of camp, I talk about the upcoming annual relay race, or cardboard boat race. It’s so predictable — the newbies look apprehensive and the veterans smile and cheer. By the end of each event, everyone is laughing, congratulating each other and talking strategy for next year! The camaraderie and chance to let loose and enjoy life was omnipresent. I loved watching the transformation.

A Focus: Camp Reveille’s “Rest and Recharge” for Caregivers

As in past years, nearly 50% of our 2013 attendees identified themselves as a caregiver. People like Debbie Keys who won the A Place for Mom “Rest & Recharge” Caregiver Getaway Contest.

I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with Debbie during her stay at Camp Reveille. Her positive energy, friendly demeanor and infectious laugh were endearing and downright contagious! She was always surrounded by a group of women. After camp ended, I got together with my team at A Place for Mom and we asked Debbie about her experience winning the APFM Caregivers Getaway Contest and about her time at Camp Reveille. Here’s what Debbie shared with us.

Joan Lunden: What was it like knowing you were headed to Camp Reveille?

Debbie Keys: I was so thrilled to have been chosen as the winner of the A Place for Mom contest. From the moment I learned the news from Joan Lunden, I tracked the days until my departing flight from Dallas to Maine.

Debbie Keys and Joan Lunden.

It turned out the timing of the trip was both fortuitous and challenging as I needed to move my mother Derlene into a memory care community just a few weeks before the start of Camp Reveille.

It was a very emotional time and while on one hand I was relieved Mom would be well cared for and safe while I was traveling, I was feeling guilty that I could no longer directly care for her in my home as I’d done for the past five years. On the other hand, I knew I really needed a break from the time commitment and stress of having Mom with me, getting her settled into her new community, visiting her and still taking care of her many day-to-day needs. I was just as busy as when she lived with me!

JL: What did you think about the camp experience?

DK: Camp Reveille was truly an experience of a lifetime. It was so wonderful to be taken care of and not have to make major decisions. There was no pressure — you could do as little or as much as you wanted in this risk-free, non-judgmental environment. That you could set your own expectations was a great point of the camp for me. For five years I’ve been committed to my mom’s schedule and while I wouldn’t change that time with her, it was so refreshing — physically, emotionally and mentally — to not feel driven by someone else’s expectations and needs.

Also, it was great that not everyone at camp was a caregiver like me. I loved meeting and chatting with women of all different ages and circumstances. It was fun and I chose to do a lot of things that were out of my comfort zone, which was inspiring. I would love to go again next year and bring my girlfriends. The food alone is worth the price of admission!

JL: Do you have any advice for caregivers that may feel overwhelmed?

Camp Reveille boat racing team.

DK: Many moons ago, I learned that if you don’t take care of yourself, you just don’t have it in you to take care of other people. If you don’t make yourself a priority, at least once in a while, you are doing yourself a disservice. You have to ask for help. Caregiving is like holding your breath and you can’t hold your breath forever. You have to breathe every once in a while or you won’t make it. Asking for help is like taking a big, deep breath.

Do you agree that nurturing the caregiver mind, soul and body is necessary and that taking a break isn’t selfish? What caregiver tips do you have? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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