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Women continue vocation by organizing area event - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Women continue vocation by organizing area event

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Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2019 4:24 pm

Three women sat around a table at Sundog Coffee on Tuesday afternoon and laughed.

Talking about an event they have been organizing, the trio realized they had been thinking as educators when they selected the door prizes. They will be giving away between 20 and 25 door prizes -- all books.

"Educators," Barb Tornow chuckled, "the biggest door prizes are books."

As educators, the women have spent a lifetime arming children with the resources they need to live better and more productive lives. Tornow, a former preschool teacher and school administrative assistant; Diane Braskamp, a retired Madison Middle School teacher; and Diane Spilde, a retired principal from Oldham-Ramona who also taught elementary school, have been working with others to organize an event which continues their life's vocation -- arming people for life.

They have been working with staff from Active Generations, a nonprofit based in Sioux Falls which promotes positive aging for adults, and physical therapist Kristin Fox to organize CareGivers...Ready, Set, Go!

The event will be held from 1-2:30 p.m. on May 23 at the Dakota Prairie Playhouse. Eighteen organizations which offer services in the area will be disseminating information. In addition, the event will include a panel discussion and refreshments.

"People don't think they're caregivers, but they really are," Braskamp said.

The range of caregiving experiences is broad. Disabled family members, aging parents, spouses who have been diagnosed with a degenerative disease such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, family members battling a serious illness such as cancer...all of these elicit a caregiving response from those who love them.

"Everybody is a caregiver," Tornow emphasizes.

The three women have known one another in passing for years but became better acquainted when they began to attend a support group in Madison with their spouses, all of whom have been diagnosed with Parkinson's. There, the women realized they had something in common -- unanswered questions.

"What is there out there for us and for our loved ones?" Braskamp said, articulating what they all wondered.

They live daily with concerns that others don't even imagine.

"What if I want to go off and scrapbook? What do I do with my husband?" Spilde asked. "We need time for ourselves, too."

"If someone gets sick and goes to the hospital and they have a loved one at home, what happens to them?" Tornow asked.

"They're never out of your mind. They're never out of your thoughts," Braskamp explained.

As experienced educators, they knew what to do.

"We realized that if you are feeling overwhelmed, you go after resources," Spilde said.

From that realization, it was only a small step to deciding they needed to make those resources more widely available.

"If we were feeling this way, what do you think others are feeling?" Tornow said they asked themselves.

Some of the resources they discovered are in the community.

"We found out Lewis delivers prescriptions for free and Sunshine delivers groceries for a fee. Dang! I didn't know about those things in Madison," Tornow said.

Some of the resources are not in the community but are available to community members.

"Veterans have their own line of resources, but we didn't know it," Spilde said.

In organizing Caregivers...Ready, Set, Go!, the women want to share what they've learned and learn about resources with which they are unfamiliar.

"It's information -- so when you are ready for this, you have all these resources," Braskamp said. "We want people to come who are not down the road as far as we are."

"When you know the resources, even if you have a high mountain, you can say, `Let's go ahead and climb it'," Tornow elaborated.

They feel strongly that caregivers need the support of others. Especially in relationships where the balance is shifting as a result of a diagnosis, the caregiver will find strength for the journey in sharing with others and in learning from the experiences of others.

"We discovered this while planning," Tornow said. "We are all three on different journeys, but we've helped each other."

The two books which will be given as door prizes are "My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping and Surviving as an Alzheimer's Caregiver" by Martin Schreiber, and "Creating Moments of Joy along the Alzheimer's Journey: A Guide for Families and Caregivers" by Jolene Brackey. The women emphasize that many of the lessons are helpful for anyone in a caregiving relationship.

"This is a new journey," Tornow said. "It's love."

CareGivers...Ready, Set, Go! is free and open to the public. However, those who plan to attend are asked to call Tornow at 270-0474, Braskamp at 270-1854 or Spilde at 270-1662 by May 16.

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