A Love Letter to Family Caregivers Everywhere
Dear Fellow Caregivers,
I know you’re probably reading this letter feeling exhausted and are looking for some support. I used to be a professional caregiver who traveled house-to-house to help families as needed. Then, my grandfather had a stroke, and his Alzheimer’s advanced quickly. I became one of his caregivers and a part of Generation Care, everyday people taking on the extraordinary role of caring for a loved one living with a serious illness.
I discovered that there’s a lot more to caregiving when you aren’t approaching it solely from the perspective of a professional. Being a caregiver is not easy, but your loved ones hold a special place in your heart which can make the experience bittersweet. Because of this love, there is sometimes this overwhelming sense of responsibility towards the person you’re caring for. You feel a deep sense of connection with your loved one, and you often put yourself in their shoes, trying to come up with ways you can support not only their physical health, but also their emotional and mental health. I never truly appreciated the emotions and sense of responsibility and duty faced by caregivers until now.
Caregivers are superheroes, but we’re human too. It can be hard sometimes to take a step back and focus on our own physical and mental well-being. I get it — it’s not easy just to say “no.” Sometimes I am the only person whom my grandfather can recognize or the only one at home who can prevent him from hurting himself or others when he’s caught up in a bad episode of sundowning. Even if I’ve had a long day at work or am in my own chronic illness flare, I’ll be there helping, because the truth is, he’s my superhero.
However, even superheroes need support. For my grandfather, I support him as a caregiver and granddaughter. But what’s going to help fuel my own caregiver superpowers? I think caregiving is one of the most life-changing experiences a person can have. It gives you the opportunity to connect with a loved one on a deeper level, and it can reveal a lot about yourself as a person. My outlook on life has changed significantly since becoming a primary caregiver for a loved one, and one of the main takeaways I have is that your mental health should not be ignored. Allow yourself the space to recharge and invest in yourself too. For me, supporting my mental health looks like reading and writing paranormal fiction. Whatever that may look like for you, take the time for yourself even if it’s just five minutes.
If you’re looking for some additional support, know that you’re not alone in your journey. There are a lot of people who appreciate the care you’re giving to your loved ones. That’s why I helped create this Digital Toolkit For Caregivers in partnership with Janssen, so that no matter if you’re new to caregiving or already have a lot of experience, there are some resources to support you and your loved one. Take what you need, and share it with others too — you never know just how much reaching out and supporting a fellow caregiver can help.