Editor's note: Helping Hands is a Sunday column offering our area nonprofit groups a chance to talk about their work. If your group would like to be considered for participation, email jperry@dlnewspapers.com. This column is by Laura Rasmussen, Regional Coordinator, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

Weekly visits from one of our volunteer caregivers is a highlight for an older gentleman in the community who needs someone present around the clock.

A former mechanic, he enjoys going for drives, browsing farm equipment at the supply store and eating lunch at a local café during their time together. Meanwhile, his wife can slip out the door to run errands, have lunch with a friend or just enjoy some coveted time for herself.

Another volunteer caregiver spends a few hours each week taking an older adult on walks, sipping coffee together and enjoying conversations while the family caregiver take a much-needed nap.

In Minnesota, we have exceptionally good neighbors in our communities! As trained volunteer caregivers with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, they provide a valuable service to family caregivers.

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It’s estimated that over a half million Minnesotans are caring for an older adult or loved ones with disabilities. These caregivers often take on demanding care routines that can be emotionally and physically exhausting.

It’s so important for caregivers to care well for themselves. Because when family caregivers take good care of themselves, they stay healthy and can continue caring for the ones they love.

Stanford University reports that 40% of caregivers pass away before the individual they are caring for. That is staggering!

Taking care of yourself is not always easy. It takes time, patience, self-awareness and planning.

Here are some ways to practice self-care:

  • Calling a friend.
  • Going for a walk.
  • Taking a much-needed nap.
  • Watching a funny movie.
  • Reading or listening to music.
  • Participating in a support group.
  • Talking with a pastor or mental health professional.
  • Praying.
  • Playing with pets.
  • Visiting children or grandchildren.

Caring well for yourself doesn’t need to be a full, luxurious day off. If you’re able to plug in small moments of self-care, that can make all the difference.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota provides a variety of support services for caregivers. These services include classes, events, workshops, consultation, coaching, counseling, discussion groups, emergency care planning, in-home respite care and group respite care.

In Detroit Lakes, I host a Caregiver Discussion group the first Tuesday of every month from 10 to 11 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church (1401 Madison Ave.), as well as a program called Morning Out for care receivers that meets twice a month at First Lutheran Church (912 Lake Ave.). At Morning Out, people can socialize in a safe and relaxed setting, play games, crafts, activities and much more.

Here's how one family caregiver benefits through our service: “The caregiver program has benefited me immensely by giving me independence I would not ordinarily have, enhancing my life given all the challenges we are facing. It has allowed me to spend time with friends and family, a vital component to not just survive but to thrive as I’ve come to realize we are not hardwired to go at it alone. I feel blessed to participate in the program LSS works hard to offer, not only for us but others in like situations throughout our community.”

If you have interest in learning more about support services or volunteering for this program, please reach out to me at 218-220-7517 or visit www.lssmn.org/caregiversupport. Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota serves all Minnesotans and welcomes people from all faith traditions and backgrounds to volunteer.

On behalf of families we serve, let me say thanks to our incredible volunteers.