Caring for children with disabilities can lead to depression. This organization aims to change that
It’s not uncommon for mothers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to experience depression. Caregiving for children with complex needs is stressful. Yet many moms don’t see themselves as caregivers.
Michele Thorne is the founder of Care for the Caregivers, which supports parents raising children with disabilities.
"Both of my kids have been diagnosed with Autism," she said. "And when that happened, you know, my whole life got turned upside down. And I know that this is very similar for many of us parents. You think you're walking down a road and a path, and all of a sudden that path starts disappearing in front of you."
Thorne says she felt depressed and even experienced suicidal thoughts.
"I didn't know what our future looked like and that is very terrifying," she explained.
She says parents like her don’t always see themselves as caregivers. And it's like, ‘But yes, you are. You are a caregiver for your child.’ And if your child is medically complex, then you are a caregiver, possibly for the rest of your life."
She goes on to say that, "there needs to be this acceptance and understanding that parents who are raising children with disabilities are caregivers. They have extra things on their plate: They have to work with doctors, they have to work with therapists, they have to apply therapy techniques when they're working with their children [and] they may have to pay all these medical bills."
November is Arizona Family Caregiver month and Thorne’s organization is hosting several events for these families, including a spa day and later this month, Thorne says they will host an event at the Arizona Opera where caregivers are able to come and bring their children who are looked after in a separate space, while they enjoy a two-to-three hour break, where they can paint and have opera singers sing to them.
Care for the Caregivers also offers support groups that are run by licensed therapist. They also provide scholarships for families who are looking to talk to a counselor and or therapist.