Life. We plan for it. We map it out. We work hard to accomplish our goals and meet our obligations. Suddenly, there is a bump in the road and we find ourselves dealing with a situation or set of situations that we could never have anticipated.
I found myself in this very situation a few years ago when my then teenage son slipped quickly and unexpectedly into a mental health breakdown. Yes, I was his mom but suddenly faced with a crisis, I became much more than that. I became a Caregiver.
Often when dealing with a health crisis of a loved one, we don’t immediately look at ourselves as Caregivers. I know that I didn’t initially. Yet, there I was, responsible for the majority of my son’s care, treatment decisions and planning. I was living the very definition of a Caregiver.
Identifying ourselves as a Caregiver is powerful.
It allows us to then be more open to seek out and accept support, guidance and tools that help our loved ones and us throughout the crisis experience and beyond. Connecting with peers, support groups or agencies that focus on Caregiving can be a good first step to getting the help that we need.
There are many people who are in caring roles that do not ask for help. There are societal expectations, especially around parents who are caring for an ill child. I remember when my son was in the middle of his fourth hospitalization and I had shared with the Doctor that things had gotten to be so challenging that I didn’t know what to do to best support my son’s needs. I felt like I was managing it all alone and I needed help. The Doctor didn’t skip a beat when he informed me that I was the parent and it was my job to figure it out. Of course it was my job to support my son, but I also recognized that the situation I was dealing with was much more challenging than one person could handle on her own.
There I was in the place where even the treatment team members were putting the onus on me to figure out how to provide the best support for my son. At the time, I was baffled and honestly I still am. I hear stories from other parents and Caregivers who are really struggling to support their loved ones through crisis and they are made to feel less than for asking for help.
Here’s the thing…
As Caregivers we often exist on little sleep and many times experience physical, mental and emotional exhaustion especially over the course of a prolonged illness, most often because we are trying to do it all on our own. I’ve written about it before but it’s so important that we recognize the fact that by depleting our physical resources, we cannot be fully available to support our loved ones in the way that they need.
It’s time to look at Caregiving as a team effort. And whether you are a parent caring for an ill child or you are caring for an ill partner or parent; the sooner you pull together a support team, the better. Don’t let your pride get in the way here. This is not an exercise in proving your worth or your value. While Caregivers are often identified as the “silent heroes” it is time to change this belief.
This is not just about Caregivers identifying themselves as such…
This is about everyone around the Caregivers beginning to see and recognize the need for support and assistance. Step up, get involved and don’t let those in caring roles do it alone. When a loved one is in crisis, whether a family member or friend, it is everyone’s job to be present and support those in need. No more excuses. It’s time to make Caregiving a team effort.