Did you know that there are 40 million people in the U.S. who are unpaid caregivers? When I first heard that number, I thought, really? Yes, Rosalyn Carter once said, “There are four kinds of people in the world, those who have been caregivers, those who currently are, those who will be, and those who will need caregivers.”
I guess that I never thought of myself as a “caregiver.” But when you stop and think about it, probably all of us have been in that role at some time in our lives. I think of myself as Ryan’s Mom but yes, I guess I am his caregiver. My roles and responsibilities have changed over the years but as I was sitting with him this morning, anticipating what the day would hold, I decided that I could be considered a caregiver.
So, if you are a caregiver, I thought that I would share a few tips I learned over the years:
Do make time for yourself, as hard as this seems. When Ryan was young, I got up TERRIBLY early so that I could go to the gym and then be home when he woke up for school. Exercise was important to me, and I felt that I could deal with the daily challenges much better if I exercised.
Get together with friends. I have a monthly book club that was the 2nd Monday of the month. It was on my calendar so I could plan in advance that someone would be home with Ryan so I could attend. It was only 1 ½ hours, but it always was a much-needed break.
Focus on the positive! My philosophy has always been “My cup is half full, not half empty.” However, It is ok to feel sad, nostalgic or disappointed when events do not go how you would like. I often think how when Ryan was born, I spoke about what class would Ryan be when he went to Notre Dame. As I realized later, that was not meant to be. Yes, it was OK to be sad.
One final note: I would encourage you to consider commenting on the 2022 National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers. The link is https://acl.gov/CaregiverStrategy/Comments. This is a great opportunity to have your voice heard.
Let’s all Celebrate National Caregiving Month! You deserve it!