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Stories that Empower

Dec 9, 2019

When Iris' friend was dying of a brain tumor, a group of friends became the caregivers. She was impressed by her friend's courage of facing death. Iris helped her friend's brother cope with the transition, to let go, to say goodbye and enabled them to bond. She felt privileged. Iris shares the following nuggets of life wisdom for caregivers:
- strive not to judge
- be open to listen
- be there for them
- accept circumstances that we are given
- family is a subjective word
- recognize that you may be feeling that you are losing the person that you once knew
- get support for yourself as a caregiver
- identify who will be the advocate

Iris Waichler has been a well known patient advocate and licensed clinical social worker for the last 35 years. She began her career working with geriatric patients who experienced catastrophic illness and counseled them and their families about adapting to these medical problems. She helped them understand their medical condition and counseled them about how to cope with the disease and its impact on their lives.

She continued to work on a rehabilitation unit in a large Chicago teaching hospital with patients who had suffered traumatic brain injuries, strokes, cancer, amputations, burns, and neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and parkinson’s disease. Ms. Waichler also covered the emergency room for 13 years seeing patients of all ages with a variety of medical problems. In addition she worked with kids who had been victims of child abuse.

Her long term hospital work gave her insights into how overwhelming it was for patients and families who suddenly found themselves in a hospital setting feeling helpless and alone. This prompted her to write her first book, Patient Power: How to Have a Say in Your Hospital Stay. She understood that if people knew what questions to ask and where to go for support, it would help empower them and assist them in coping with their medical conditions and the resulting life changes.

She used these insights to supervise social work students, and teach medical students, interns, residents, and nurses about patient rights, ethics, and to help them become more empathetic and effective in their day to day patient and family care.

Ms. Waichler found herself in the role of a patient when she battled infertility for many years. The feelings of loss and helplessness she personally experienced were profound. She promised herself if she was successful in having a child she would do everything she could to help other people fighting infertility.

She authored a second award winning book, Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire. This book won 2 best book of the year awards. The response was so great she began doing individual and group counseling with people who had infertility. She volunteered for RESOLVE, a national infertility group, and went on to do a series of radio interviews, magazine articles, workshops, and speeches designed to inform and support men and women with infertility.

In writing her new book, Role Reversal: How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging, Ms. Waichler has come full circle. Her experience in caring for her beloved father, who died at age 97, triggered her passion in reaching out to others who suddenly find themselves in a caregiver role and are uncertain about what to do or where to go for help. In this book she shares her father’s inspiring story and her personal and professional experience in assuming the challenges that come with being a caregiver for an aging loved one.

Iris has been doing freelance writing for the last 15 years. The focus of her work has been on health related topics and assisting her readers gain knowledge that helps them feel less alone and empowers them in significant new ways.

Ms. Waichler lives in Chicago with her husband, Steve, and her daughter, Grace. She loves to travel whenever she can and to spend time with friends and family.

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