A caregiver is most easily defined as someone who provides care. And for most of us we think of our immediate go to people such as a parent, spouse, child, sibling or even a close friend. But the reality is a caregiver isn’t just the person who may cater to you if you’re sick in bed. Its so much more than that. I myself can admit that caregivers have come in all shapes and sizes. They have included coworkers, bus drivers, pen pals, Facebook friends, store clerks, people who pass out the daily newspaper, church members,neighbors, etc. One of my favorite sayings is, “we teach people how to treat us.”
For example, when I was diagnosed with cancer I decided I needed to teach everyone how to treat me. And even become my caregiver. I’m not big on support groups as a choice for myself. But there are numerous moments where I need to vent steam, laugh or cry. Since I normally can’t just predict those moments, I’ve learned to have people prepped and ready when I need the services of a caregiver. My definition of a caregiver is simply someone who chooses to care.
At my last job, I had a very rough time. There were times I could feel myself exploding inside. I was literally a ticking time bomb. On one of these many occasions, I just pinged a coworker on instant messenger and said “let’s go”. Without knowing where we were going or why, they got up and left with me and we walked for a while and I ended up stopping for ice cream, which we all know has healing powers. It helped me focus on something different for the moment. With the coworker, we didn’t have any profound conversation, nor did I cry. I’m not even sure if I really said anything until I got the ice cream. But at that moment, they were my caregiver. I’m not sure if they realized how close to blowing my top off I was (maybe they could see the smoke coming from my ears) but it was just insanely good timing that worked it out. They cared to stop what they were doing to take a walk. It impacted me in a big and positive way.
Now, don’t get me wrong, do I sometimes wish I had a dedicated support person in the form of a husband? Of course I do. But the reality is one person is not enough of a system. They may not be around. They get burned out. They are not just dealing with watching someone they care about showing a different, vulnerable side but they are also trying to still live their own life. It used to frustrate me because people I thought would be there weren’t and others who I didn’t think cared on that level were. I started realizing, who am I to be so picky? Someone being sincerely interested in me and what is going in my life is being my caregiver. Unless you are married, its quite hard to explain to employers that you are trying to take care of a non relative. No matter how close you may be.
What does this mean? You may need to seek out other people and ways to get care. Appreciate the people who are there and realize there is no instruction manual. They may be annoying to you and it might be time to take a little break and utilize someone else. Sometimes when someone says a kind word to me randomly, they are being more of a support system than they will ever know.
Here’s my point. You can recruit caregivers without them even knowing it. Regardless of what we are going through with our sickness, we all have different ways of needing help. Its okay to reach out to anyone who is around you. Sometimes people want to help but don’t know how and there are people who don’t want to help because they either figure they aren’t good at it or they have never even thought about it. I genuinely believe in “caregiver burn out”. I figure the more I have, the less likely my core ones will run low on fuel and burn out.