Roz Levine, a retired school counselor, is the wife of a stroke survivor who had his first of three strokes three-and-a-half years ago. His strokes have impacted his balance, and consequent falls have required visits to the emergency room. Roz is her husband’s primary caregiver.
“Caregiving is a challenge,” Roz said, “one that requires compassion, courage, and patience for both the stroke patient and the caregiver.”
Roz said, “I feel it is most important to carve out some time for myself, time to revitalize my energy, be it in reading, being creative, visiting a friend, inviting a friend to my home, finding areas that bring me laughter and joy, or connecting with others to feel that I am still a part of the world and not just a caregiver. Sometimes this can be very difficult, but I feel it’s necessary to do this to maintain my own physical and mental well-being.”
Roz also believes in the power of gratitude and sharing her experiences with other caregivers. “Holding on to gratitude and finding outlets to experience peace and inner joy on this caregiving journey are essential,” she said. Sharing feelings with others in a support group provides additional help. “You realize you are not alone with emotions that might be overwhelming at times,” she said.
For the last several months, Roz has been attending Stroke Support Association’s caregiver support groups, where the focus is on the health and well-being of the caregiver. (Roz attends the Wednesday groups via Zoom. SSA also holds in-person groups on Tuesdays in Long Beach.)
“It is so helpful to be a part of the caregivers’ support group,” Roz said. “It’s a safe place to be with kindred souls experiencing many of the same feelings I have. Sharing our stories shows me that I am not in this alone, that my feelings are not unique to me, do not signify that I’m mean or uncaring when some days seem very overwhelming. We share our lives, our pains and joys, and connect to our common humanity. It is a great balm to show up on Zoom every Wednesday morning and know I can support others and that they can also support me.”
In addition to her caregiving role, and being a help to her daughter and two granddaughters who live with her and her husband, Roz is a political activist, a student of Buddhism, and a poet. She shared one of her poems recently at the caregivers’ group:
May you walk steps
Of this new day
Fresh from its rising
Garbed in smiles not scowls
Gratitude not groans.
May you be cloaked
In hope not hate
You don a robe woven
Of calm not chaos.
May your one, precious
And beautiful heart
Beat a clarion call
Pealing out love and peace
Here, there, everywhere
For everyone, dear friend,
Roz has been a word lover and a story weaver since the age of eight when her third grade teacher noticed her creativity and said, “I think you’ll be a writer when you grow up.” Poetry is her genre of choice. “I use poetry to help mitigate personal anxiety, and as a vehicle to ponder the turbulence in our lives, our connections to one another as human beings on this one earth we all share, and as a powerful tool to save my own life,” she said. “I believe finding one’s own creative outlet can very much aid a person in the healing process as they navigate the ups and downs of this journey we’re all on.”
Contributed by Betsy Hardiman, Support Group Administrator