Caregiving often feels lonely. You might worry that when you talk to your friends all you do is complain about caregiving challenges. You don’t want to be that annoying friend and maybe you feel like your friends can’t relate. But, the reality is we will all be involved in caregiving at some point.
Stories are powerful. They can help us feel less alone. We can learn from others’ experiences and find the help we need. And, telling your story helps you make sense of things. Telling your story—while being witnessed with loving attention by others who care—may be the most powerful medicine on earth. Every time you tell your story and someone else who cares listens, you turn off the body’s stress responses. Not only does this turn on the body’s self-repair mechanisms, it also relaxes your nervous system and helps with feelings of depression, anxiety, fear, anger, and disconnection. Caregivers absolutely need this.
We have a few caregivers who have shared their stories below. Their experiences reflect common themes in caregiving. We also invite you to join us in the Caregivers Community on Facebook to learn from others and share the good, bad, funny, and tough of caregiving.
We also understand the hesitation about sharing your story and some of the challenges in the responses and information you may receive. So, we have created a solution for caregivers to have a safe space to share and get advice and resources. Our Care Coaching Program is an affordable, accessible option for caregivers anywhere.
Lesson Learned: Getting Caregiving Help Before a Crisis
Caregiving for Mom was one crisis after another. I never knew how to bring up my worries with her. In our family, we didn’t talk about money, planning, or the future. I “became a caregiver” when I got a call Mom was in the ER. Soon after, we discovered her memory was failing and her home was a mess. I felt woefully unprepared. We were ashamed that Mom had gotten to this point. I didn’t want anyone to know and kept it all inside.
The only real positive thing that came out of that experience was that we did things differently with my mother-in-law. We used the lessons learned from caregiving to start discussions. My husband and I visited and attended appointments with her and her professional advisors. We had some hard talks with their help. They referred us to a home care company and we set up a care management consultation.
It was so freeing to talk openly about what was going on and to share our concerns. I got comfortable enough with our care manager to share worries I had shame about, such as how her needs would impact our family and plans. By being able to open up about my caregiving journey and what had happened with my Mom, we were able to get the help we needed. She was able to give input about what she wanted and we stopped living crisis to crisis.
Independent v Interdependent: Caregiving Help and Support
I thought caregiving was just something you did. Well, it may be, but what that means is another thing. I guess I interpreted that as having to do it all. Since it felt so personal, I didn’t think about reaching out to anyone else. I don’t have any siblings and my parents were older than most of my friends’ anyway.
It was only after I became overwhelmed that I realized I didn’t have to do it all myself. I finally started searching for other caregivers online and spilled my guts. They supported me and offered their own stories. The best discovery was that I was not alone. And, they told me about some of the help that was out there. I realized we can do so much more by not struggling along on our own. We now have an interdependent team and it works so much better. My Dad had to come to terms with needing help, but so did I.
The Healing Power of Stories
I have supportive friends. Some of us talk pretty regularly. But, I got overwhelmed with caregiving and didn’t keep in touch much. I was worn out at the end of the day and didn’t want to bore my friends with caregiving woes.
It was only later that I realized I’d alienated some of my friends. And, I discovered I really needed them and their support. I forgot how good it was to just laugh and vent about things. I started keeping a journal and being sure to write down both the difficult and humorous moments.
When my parents went into hospice, I attended a support group. I didn’t share at first, but eventually opened up. Then, I even read some of my journal entries to the group. I started putting some stories out on a blog, which led a number of friends and family members to reach out to me. These stories mean even more to me now that Mom and Dad are gone. And, I hope they’ve helped other caregivers too.