Dedicated to the true caregivers in my life.Caregiver –
- a person who gives help and protection to someone, such as a child, an older person, or someone who is sick. [Merriam-Webster]
- a person who cares for someone who is sick or disabled. [The Free Dictionary]
- a person who cares for someone requiring support due to a disability, frailty, mental health problem, learning disability or old age [Wikipedia]
I have never thought of myself as a caregiver. I am a friend who can, and is able to, help out another friend in need. However, I was recently referred to as a “caregiver” by a volunteer at the hospital. At first I was startled by the description and almost protested. But I have learned to just accept the labels those around us have given me. Even one of the doctors refers to me as Linda’s daughter.
My mother often refers to me and my sister as her caregivers. I guess. I suppose. I think of my mother as my mother. And the time I get to spend with her is precious and limited due to our geographic distance. I am lucky enough to live within driving distance and we get to see each other about once a month.
But when I stop and think about my friends who are true caregivers I realize how little I know about their reality. My friend Linda (from law school) cares for her husband, Peter, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. My friend Tina is her mother’s primary contact for all of her medical needs. Even my own cousin is the caregiver for her parents; living with them so that their daily needs are met.
November is National Caregivers Month here in the United States. I encourage you to look around and see who in your community is a caregiver. Is there something you can do to lessen their burden? Maybe stay with their parent(s) or spouse so that they can have an afternoon at the spa to get a massage. Maybe make a meal for the family. Maybe do their grocery shopping and errands one day. Maybe clean their house. It doesn’t have to be any of these things, but you have a gift that you can share. Think about how you can use your gift to give that caregiver a well-deserved respite.
I still don’t think of myself as a caregiver. I think of myself as someone who can give of my time to help a caregiver. What can you do this month? Better yet, can you give of your time once a month? Caregivers need more than the month of November.