Dr. Nate Berger doesn’t want kudos or pats on the back. And he doesn’t need practical advice, either. He’s been a caregiver to his wife Nancy for 28 years, so he knows the ropes. But what Nate does need, and has found with Oasis, is some affirmation that he’s not alone.
“I determined very early on in the game that I’d make life as pleasant for my wife as possible,” Nate says, recalling the series of strokes that changed everything for the two of them.
Despite his resolve and long tenure as a caregiver, Nate finds participation in a new Caregiver Support Group at Washington Metro Oasis, in Bethesda, MD, to be very helpful. Others are embracing the opportunity to be a part of the group.
“We discovered a real need from a couple of our volunteers whowere dealing with the stresses of providing caregiving for their spouses,” says Anna Stokes, Executive Director. “Even when caring for a loved one is an act of love, it takes many new skills and a great deal of energy. The group has really bonded.”
Nate is the only man in the group of 18 caregivers, all of whom agree that their task is a tough one.
“We’re in the same boat. It’s very reassuring to realize that we all have the same fears. We’re afraid we’re going to be overwhelmed, that we’re not doing enough,” he says. “Most of us have realized that we can’t do it all on our own.”
Nate came to that realization from the get-go, and he recognizes that he has advantages that many don’t. A retired dentist and surgeon, he has been able to afford help.
The money topic is something that the group has requested that they get more guidance on, says another participant, Joyce Siegel, who is caregiver to her husband.
“Many are concerned about what they will do when the money runs out,” she says. “There isn’t money for assisted living, and not everyone knows about the resources that are available to them. We all try to help each other, and to give suggestions on what’s working for us.”
Caregivers, Nate says, tend to experience the gamut of emotions as the realities of their day-to-day lives sink in.
“We’re either mad, glad, sad or scared,” he says, adding that loneliness is also common, making a support group even more vital.
“It’s nice to be in the room and see everyone nodding as someone shares an experience,” he adds. “I’ve shared things with these people that I’ve never told anyone else.”
The Oasis support group is not the only way that Nate offers solutions for others navigating lives with disabilities. He and Nancy have traveled to 58 countries, and share their experiences and advice on a website called Disabled Travelers Guide to the World.
Throughout their travels, Nate says that many people approach Nancy to tell her how fortunate she is to have such a wonderful husband who is willing to go to such lengths to help her. He quickly corrects them.
“I am the one who is blessed. It’s a privilege to be a part of this amazing woman’s life,” he says.
Nate Berger is featured in the 2014 Oasis Annual Report.