Episode 61: Own Your Role

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Caregiving is a 24hr JOB! So why don’t we give it the credit it is due? I’m not talking about the people who aren’t caregivers but us, the caregivers. Why don’t we show the world how essential caregiving is?

I think the answer is fairly simple… we are in a constant battle to either recover from what life throws at us or understand what the heck we are supposed to do in order to survive what is happening to our families at any moment in time. 

We have no training before becoming caregivers and things rarely work twice. Let’s say your wife needs chemo. After a round you might think you know what to expect the next time but you quickly learn that her reaction to the treatment can be different every time. 

Even though we can learn patterns over time we are never really fully prepared for anything. We just learn as we go and some of us are able to become a little more resilient with experience.

You get thrown into caregiving and then find yourself constantly trying to figure things out. Constantly trying to learn how to care for your loved one and maybe not even realizing that you’ve taken on a role that, at some point, you need to define. 

Let’s look at a paying job.

Every paid job has a job description. You walk into a new job knowing what you are expected to do. You’re ready to learn how to take on those responsibilities appropriately and you ask for support from people who are qualified to support you. You have the ability to set boundaries to your day without feeling like you’ll be judged for them. You take vacations, time off, sick days, holidays because it’s acceptable. When people ask you what you do you know exactly what to say and you communicate the value of that job through the tone of pride in your voice. 

Do you have that in your life right now?

If someone were to ask you about what you do how would you answer? Do you feel the pride well up in your chest, head tilt a little higher, and, with conviction and strength, tell them that you are a caregiver? It’s usually the opposite. Maybe you don’t even use the word caregiver. Maybe you say you don’t work because you HAVE to stay home to take care of your spouse. Maybe you don’t even mention it all. Maybe you tell them you are a lawyer for a firm in town and, even though caring for your wife is a struggle and makes more difference in the world than any job can, you never mention it. 

Why do we do that?

Why do we seem to shrink when we have the opportunity to talk about caregiving to people? I’ve know people over the years who bought into a pyramid scheme that were almost obsessive about wanting to talk about his new company they were working for. If only we could want to tell the world about caregiving with just an ounce of that enthusiasm. 

What you do is the most selfless thing a person can do! You give up so much of yourself, of your life, to take care of this one person. A person who you chose to stick with through the pain and hardship of a disease or disability. You have the ability to enrich the life of a person who is confronted daily with how hard and fleeting life can be. You obviously believe that it makes a difference. 

So…OWN the fact that you are a caregiver! Define what that role is for you. Once you know what type of caregiver you will be and have a full understanding of all the tasks that you are responsible for in that role it will be a lot easier to communicate with the world that you are a caregiver with more confidence. 

First, Accept if you will 

  • Be a caregiver full time.
  • Work outside the house and be a caregiver at the same time.
  • Be a caregiver but pay to have a lot of the things done for you.

These are all valid types of caregiving. 

If you care for someone 100% of the time without extra help from anyone else…then own that even if you don’t feel you really had a choice. If that is what caregiving is for you right now, then fully step into that role. If it’s too much, if you feel you just aren’t enjoying your life at all - that’s fine. That means that once you understand what you do you can start to change what you can.

You aren’t less of a person if you have to or want to work while caring for someone. But own the fact that you are now also a caregiver. You have a job and on top of that another important role. Maybe you haven’t had a second to realize that you now have two jobs. Continuing to work while caregiving doesn’t mean that you care any less than a full time caregiver. It means that you are making things work just like the rest of us.

If you find that you just can’t do everything you are expected to and you chose to hire people to come in to help that doesn’t diminish the importance of your role, it just means that you have found a way to delegate some things to people who may be more qualified then you. Maybe you’ve come to realize that you are under a little less stress when you have a team to help you and you can spend more quality time with the person you care for. 

Caregiving is always fluid. The health of the person you care for won’t stay the same and neither will caregiving. Knowing what you do now as a caregiver will allow you to revisit the things you do when you feel life has become too stressful and you’ll be able to see how it has changed. 

Once you’ve identified how much of your life will be devoted to caregiving make a list of all the things you do. Make it as broad or as precise as you’d like. Here are some broad tasks that are a part of a caregivers day...

  • Nutritionist
  • Chef
  • Maid
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Driver
  • Scheduler
  • Advocate
  • Personal Shopper
  • Counselor
  • Motivational Speaker
  • Coach
  • Untrained Nurse
  • Friend

Look at your list and allow yourself to be impressed and proud of everything you do! Put as much as you can think of on that list. No task is too small. Then put it somewhere you can add to it as new things come to mind. If you met someone that did just one of those things you would be impressed, wouldn’t you? Don’t ever discount all the things you do. 

Your caregiving matters and makes a difference in the world even when you don’t feel like it does. 

Always remind yourself of how important of a person you are in your loved one’s life. 

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