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strength-for-caring.jpgOne of the difficult things about working for a large company is that you often lose track of old friends and colleagues as they take on new assignments or move to different parts of the organization -- or to different parts of the world.

That's why I was delighted yesterday to catch up with an old friend of mine who launched our Campaign For Nursing's Future, and to learn that she is now responsible for a new initiative that is dedicated to providing support for caregivers. Though the instinct to care is hardwired into all of us, balancing the needs of our own lives while sorting out therapists, physicians, on-site nurses and other tasks to care for a relative or loved one requires skills and knowledge that many people lack, and can cause immense stress, strain and emotional turmoil.

Hence this initiative. Called Strength For Caring, it provides online resources and advice to help people cope with being caregivers. Take this passage that I found in one of the columns there:

Caregiving, whether you are a known or unknown giver of it, is a beautiful thing, and you are beautiful to provide it. This can be easy to lose sight of when you don’t get recognition, when nobody notices how your own life as you once knew it is totally unrecognizable. You feel invisible, underappreciated, and frustrated. And in many ways you are. By now you must realize that you’re the Hidden Caregiver!

Perhaps what I find most compelling about Strength for Caring is that it also has forums where people can share their experiences on a variety of subjects.

For people who are struggling with difficult healthcare choices, connecting with others -- for empathy or advice -- is crucial. Empowering people with information and tools that help them interact with others enables them make informed decisions and reassures them that they are not alone. It's a powerful combination -- and one of the reason why the use of social media tools, such as those touched on in an article in yesterday's WSJ for nutrition and weight loss, are starting to take off.

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