Caring for Caregivers

Helping a loved one evolves into greater purpose.

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By Kathleen Childers

APPLETON, WISCONSIN—Cindy Thompson worked for the county and state in several capacities, including as a graphic designer. But seven years ago, the lifelong Thrivent member ended that career to begin a new one—as a fulltime caregiver for her husband, who six months before had been given a life-altering diagnosis.

Thompson quickly learned that caring for another person is not only demanding but can be isolating and lonely, and it’s easy to neglect your own needs. While her children and her mother are a tremendous help, Thompson also joined several support groups to share with others in her situation.

The groups have been helpful, but the participants talked about the lack of books they could turn to as resources. So Thompson and others hatched an idea: They would write some essays about their experiences and compile them in a book as a resource to others. A Lonely Journey was published last year. Thompson compiled the submissions and created a company, Journey Publish, to publish it.

“The purpose of the book is to support other caregivers as well as to help family, friends, co-workers and employers understand the journey of a caregiver,” Thompson says. The book has turned out to be just the first step in what has become Thompson’s mission: to help other caregivers.

It led to a one-day event last fall. Nearly 100 participants were treated to motivational speakers, chair yoga relaxation tips, live music, complimentary massages and more.

And because of the book, Cindy was honored with one of five Caregiver of the Year awards at last year’s National Caregivers Conference in Chicago.

Many people have asked if she’ll do a second book. But Thompson is now focusing on the organization she created that grew out of the event last fall. Called Family Caregivers Rock Nonprofit, its mission is to help caregivers fulfill their wishes.

“I’ve heard many caregivers say ‘I wish…’ over the years,” Thompson says. “For example, sometimes they wish for help with a project around the house or sometimes they want to bring family members home for one last visit with the loved one they’re caring for.”

The nonprofit will grant those requests. Thompson already has secured donations from some businesses and is negotiating participation from airlines. She expects it to be operational this year.

Being a caregiver, publisher and board member of the nonprofit seems like a lot of responsibility, but Thompson is clear about how she manages it all.

“I’ve always had a strong faith,” she says. “And I always say, ‘I can’t do it without God’s help.’”

Who inspires you?

God blessed me with two amazing role models: my mother, Virginia, and my grandmother Eunice.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

Weekly morning walks with a group and occasionally pickleball.

How do you live your faith?

I was taught to be kind and to help others in need, as the Bible directs us to do.

What adage guides your life?

“There is a special place in Heaven for caregivers.” (At least caregivers like to think there is, she says.)