The wee hours. I started the habit of getting up at 4 a.m. during my most intensive caregiving days, as it's the only way I could find peace and quiet. No demands. A time to connect with my soul and listen for universal guidance. It's often all that's kept me somewhat sane, though some may differ with me on the success of that last point.

Now, as moderator for the AgingCare forum, I see in black and white that I am not the only caregiver who operates in this fashion. I receive e-mail alerts when people post on the site and most come very late at night or very early in the morning (late night and early morning are subjective judgments and depend on individual mindsets, I have found).

These days, when I sign into my e-mail around 5 a.m., the notifications from AgingCare.com string out like a list of people hoping to win the lottery. I'm gratified when I see this list. Not only am I able to add my two cents of hard-won wisdom from my years in the trenches, but even more importantly, all of these wonderful caregivers are supporting each other. This group is exploding in numbers, and the people are amazing. I tell them this often, as I click on the responses to see if I should chime in or if they are taking care of each other so well they don't need anything from me.

Back to the wee hours. I check my e-mail all day long, as most of my work is on my computer and e-mail is my most important tool, other than my writing software. During the day, there are a few posts, but not usually a lot of action. Why is this so? Well, who has time during the day?

Mom needs to go to the doctor or have her diaper changed. Dad has to be fed and kept from wandering out of the house. Siblings have to be begged to help and tough skin must be developed when the caregiver is told what they do doesn't matter enough that they will receive help.

This is where support from those who understand comes in. This is why caregivers will give up an hour of precious sleep to find out they are not as isolated as they think. They will also give up precious sleep to help one another. They are not alone when they have this connection, and they want others to know that they, too, are not alone. These are generous people.

Even if it's just online, caregivers find many support groups dedicated to their needs. They know they are doing their best and their best has to be good enough. They can drop the guilt. They need to get help and take care of themselves. They are okay as they are.

After they have unloaded and received some encouragement, they can then, if they are lucky, snatch a few hours of sleep before the demands once again begin.

Oops, Mom's up already. So much for sleep. Well, at least I'm not alone.

Carol Bradley Bursack

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Over the span of two decades, author, columnist, consultant and speaker Carol Bradley Bursack cared for a neighbor and six elderly family members. Her experiences inspired her to pen, "Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories," a portable support group book for caregivers.

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