“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.”
― Tia Walker, The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love
November is National Family Caregivers Month -a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the family caregiver and to provide them with the tools that they need to care for their loved ones and for themselves.
Did you know that 1 in 5 Americans (21.3%), or 53 million Americans identify as unpaid caregivers?
- 10% are enrolled in college or other classes
- 89% of those caring for adults are caring for a relative
- 40% live with the person they care for full-time
Being a family caregiver is a challenging and complex role, and yet providing care for someone you love is one of the most fulfilling gifts that you will ever receive. The role of a family caregiver can also be hard for others to fully understand. You are a spouse, partner, child, parent, or sibling, and you are also an advocate, coach, and care coordinator, and supervisor- so many hats to wear and to juggle.
Then there is the mental and emotional aspects-the journey of self-care. You must take care to give care. When someone you love becomes unable to care for themself, it can be a heartbreaking experience for the whole family. But, as your loved one’s primary caregiver, you see their struggles up close and personal in a way others do not, which can be a huge emotional burden to bear. Even with your best efforts, sometimes your role as a caregiver gets the best of you and it is easy to become overwhelmed.
For all these reasons, in November ALS Texas will host a series of dedicated events celebrating caregivers of all ages, empowering each other, discovering shared experiences, and caring for those that care for others. Before you learn more about each of these events below (and save the dates on your calendar!), we want to share with you this essay from Dr. Jerry Koch. Jerry is a dear friend in our ALS Texas community, and he also shares this introduction: “I am, most profoundly, Jeanie’s Dearly Beloved, and she mine. We shared 40 years of friendship and were married for 21. She ended a three-year fight with ALS last October; I bore witness to her heroic courage and forbearance. So, I’m now an honored caregiver, care-receiver, and storyteller.”
Two Way Street
This week I got invited to officiate a wedding. With more trepidation than I let on, I accepted. This will be my first wedding in several years, and the first since, well since.
They will tell each other their highest truth. Eyeball to eyeball. For better and for worse. For richer and for poorer. In sickness and in health.
“In sickness and in health.” To rather overstate the obvious, 50% or so of all married persons will eventually become caregivers in one form or fashion. But now I know the promise is a two-way street. There’s caregiving, obviously, and there’s also care-receiving.
Jeanie was viscerally self-sufficient. She would sometimes chide my tendency to ask for help before I’d fully tried to solve the matter myself. (Exception: Plumbing or electricity. Help!)
ALS made her completely vulnerable. To everything. And out of deep and abiding love, she let me in. To everything. She kept her promise by allowing me to keep mine. It was the hardest and most loving thing she ever did.
This next wedding is scheduled right around the first anniversary of her ascension. I had been wondering how I might make ready for that. So maybe this invitation was also heaven-sent.
It will be hard to absorb their wedding ceremony into my own experience. But now all those vows have new meanings. “In sickness and in health.” And then the one that comes next.
“To love and to cherish.”
We went the distance down that two-way street as well. The opportunity to love and cherish made every day worth it.
I’m so grateful she called me worthy.
We invite you to lean into love, and join us for all our National Family Caregivers Month events. You will be inspired, empowered, hopeful, and connected to a community – a family that is here for you no matter what.
Tonya Hitschmann, Director of Community Programs