“The word ‘caregiver’ often conjures up the image of someone who stands next to a bed distributing pills or wiping a brow. In reality, a caregiver takes on numerous roles. For me, becoming a caregiver after my husband’s diagnosis has meant taking on the responsibility of all the household tasks, jobs that my husband and I used to divide up and share. Almost every single task is now done by me, from financial planning and home repairs to car maintenance and the bulk of parenting.
Here’s an example of how our lives look different now. Braden and I used to enjoy working outside in the yard together. He would take on the larger, heavier jobs such as trimming weeds, mowing and using the snow blower. Now, all of that falls on me. Being a caregiver has also made me the ‘practice coach’ for our children as they participate in sports, something Braden enjoyed doing before the days of oxygen tanks when he could run and move around easily. Many times I feel like a single parent, taking on things I never thought I would have to do by myself.
With that in mind, I would like to share some of the misinformation I’ve dealt with as a caregiver. Statistics are from this source.
Myth 1: Caregivers are middle-aged mothers, wives and daughters.
Although I fall into this category, statistics show that today about 40% of caregivers are men, and many caregivers are between the ages of 18 and 34.
Myth 2: Caregiving is done in addition to someone’s full-time job.
In reality, about a third of caregivers quit their jobs or reduce their hours in order to care for a loved one. In many cases, caregiving becomes the person’s full-time job and their career is put on hold.
Myth 3: People already know how difficult caregiving can be.
Many caregivers suffer in silence and do not ask for help. This is another category I fall into at times. People who help take care of a loved one often have generous or strong personalities and either do not like to or do not know how to ask for help.
The problem with not reaching out is that it creates a deficit of support: often other people are unaware of the magnitude of the work a caregiver is undertaking or the stress the caregiver is under. Which leads to this fourth myth…
Myth 4: Caregivers should always be positive and shouldn’t complain.
There is a fine balance for me between sharing personal details to keep people informed and maintaining privacy. Our family tries to maintain a positive outlook, so talking openly about the illness and related problems was a challenge until we learned several key things.
First, we are not alone in our experience; most people have been touched by something similar. Second, dealing with these issues has enriched our lives. Being able to share our challenges provides us the chance to not only help others but to help ourselves, too. The updates we share on Braden’s HelpHOPELive campaign page are a wonderful opportunity to keep our family and friends informed and discuss caregiving as well as Braden’s journey towards transplantation.
Myth 5: Caregiving is a thankless job.
Being a caregiver is stressful and often discouraging, and it can be overwhelming. But caregiving is also very rewarding at times. Some caregivers experience an emotional and spiritual sense of fulfillment. Taking care of someone you love provides opportunities to grow closer and form bonds with each other and other members of your family or support network.
Understanding and dispelling these caregiving myths may help us to seek assistance, gain support and lessen some of the stress we encounter as we help take care of someone we love.”
Beth is the wife and caregiver of Braden Richards, who is fighting a rare autoimmune disorder. Braden and Beth are fundraising with HelpHOPELive for the out-of-pocket costs associated with a lifesaving lung transplant.