When you hear the term “caregivers,” what do you think? There was a time I only thought of “caregivers” as people who had taken in an elderly parent or grandparent. It never crossed my mind there were many other types of caregivers who give care to all sorts of people, pets and even things. Parents are caregivers to their children. Teachers are caregivers to their students. Business owners are caregivers to their livelihood. Pet parents are caregivers to their pets. The list goes on and on; it never ends.
The list of misconceptions about caregivers never ends either. It doesn’t matter what type of caregiver you are or who you are giving the care to, there are quite a few myths about the wonderful work you (we) do. Just having someone acknowledge those misconceptions is a help to us. So…that is what I am doing. I’m acknowledging some of those misconceptions and recognizing the fact we need to share them with others. And, I might even have a few ideas how to overcome the myths and help others see what life really is like for us.
Unlimited Help And Resources
“He has a big family” and “she has a lot of friends” are things people say when they learn someone they know is a caregiver, implying help is always available. No idea what that has to do with anything, but many people say it. The size of our families and circles of friends has nothing to do with the help offered to us and the resources at our fingertips.
Truthfully, it might be harder for caregivers with big circles. Big circles probably tend to believe “someone” is going to do something, to help. When most people (which often feels like “everyone”) think someone else is going to help ease the burden “Someone” turns into “no one” and the caregiver often wishes “anyone” would offer assistance.
As caregivers, we need to reach out our “someones” and let them know our needs. We need to do this as often as possible. It isn’t just good for us; it is also good for who (or what) we are caring for. And, it is good for the people who do help. There is no shame in admitting we aren’t Superman and Wonder Woman. It doesn’t make you needy or incapable or clingy. Everyone needs something once in a while.
Love And Time Multiplies
Ask anyone with more than one child and they will tell you “love multiplies.” Sadly, that isn’t true for our time. Love multiplies, but time doesn’t. Time divides. Time always divides at a much faster rate than love multiplies.
There is only so much time in a given day and it is impossible to stretch it out. We can’t make it last longer. We can do things to make better use of our time, but we can not give ourselves more of it. Caregivers are almost always great at time management, but all the tricks or cheats we use when managing our time doesn’t put time back on the clock.
Learning to say “no” is one way to manage our time. “No” isn’t a dirty word. Setting priorities and boundaries is key to make our lives run as smoothly as possible. More importantly, we have to find a way to stick with them. We also have to share our priorities and boundaries with those in our lives. When given the opportunity, I believe people are more understanding and compassionate than we often think.
Only One Job
Another misconception about caregivers is how they only have one job. If that were only true! Many caregivers have several jobs. More than likely, most of those jobs are non-paying. Parents have careers. Business owners have families and pets. Folks who are caregivers to an elderly family member often have all of those things.
We need to recognize the fact we are wearing lots of hats. We also need to understand just because we put on one hat more than another, we aren’t failures or incapable. Face it, we are walking a tightrope as we juggle chainsaws, spin plates and remember all the words to “American Pie.” Letting go of the chainsaws and letting a few plates fall can and will happen. And, it should happen. Remember, we aren’t Superman or Wonder Woman and we are setting priorities and boundaries.
Things Just Work Out
Personally, I believe the biggest misconception about caregivers is how things “just work themselves out.” Trust me, nothing works itself out. We make things we work. We are incredible puppet masters, working behind the scenes to keep our little world spinning on its axis.
I don’t know how, but we manage to get the grocery shopping done, (some sort of) food on the table, the dishes done, the laundry folded and the electricity bill paid. We manage to keep bosses happy, pets fed, cars running and, sometimes, our hair brushed. We need a trophy every day for all the little things we manage to get done.
Just to help keep us sane, we need to make note of all things we manage to make work on a daily basis. We are dealing with a lot of stuff and we need to brag to ourselves about how well we do. It is also a good idea to tell others of our daily victories. Sharing what we are going through and how we are managing is a good thing.
As a caregiver, please don’t start believing these misconceptions yourself. It is easy to do. Especially when you are hearing them from others. Please feel free to share these misconceptions with the people in your life. A simple “you should read this” could be a real eye-opener to others. If you find you are needing a place to share what is going on with you, please pop in to our Facebook group. Other caregivers, of all kinds, are there. It is a community of people who “get it” and are willing to help.