Why do I refuse to fall into the category called “CAREGIVER?” There are several reasons I never want to be a caregiver. I started collecting them over a decade ago when I first encountered the term. This list wasn’t a conscious effort, it was born out of a cringing response to brochures and advice handed to me with the challenges of caregiving, most of which seemed to have no application for what I was dealing with. The advice included such suggestions as: take a bath, find time for yourself and get a pedicure.
My Top 3 Reasons for Martyrdom
1. I’m too young
First off, at 26, I was quite sure I was not a caregiver. People my age did not fit into that box. Caregivers are the gentle, elderly types who bring casseroles, are always patient, and are eternally giving—kind of like a Mother Teresa born again. That to me was a caregiver. Instead I found myself in a bit of a pickle when my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer (survival rates could be described as low to even lower in her case).
My to-do list now included filing for Social Security and early retirement. These types of tasks were well beyond my immediate skill set, but a perfect fit for casserole caregiver. With this, I found that the bath did not help in transactions with the government.
2. I’m a mommy’s girl
It is one of the laws of the universe that your parents will always take care of you and love you in spite of the many bad choices you make. I don’t care how old you are, this law is so ingrained it defies questioning. My body produced a physical reaction in response to a shift in this law, like the removal of gravity.
So when I made the decision for my mom to move from independence into long-term, end-of-life care, I was terrified. My father and mother were incapacitated by this choice and reached out to me to end what was becoming a cycle of unmanageable care. Casserole caregivers would have swooped in with deft skill and comfort to assist. I sat immobile and physically ill with the choice that was not a choice, minus my eternal standard of care—my mother. Then, time with myself was spent in a circular argument of “am I doing the right thing?” In other words, alone time was not a good idea for me.
3. I’m too selfish
It was difficult to get out of bed in the morning, or in the afternoon for that matter. Operating within my normal life became an exercise in futility. My husband and friends were not sure how to help or even what to say. My father faced the even greater struggle of primary caregiver and was battling his own demons. Every aspect of my normal existence became infected with this virus of caregiving—work, hospital visits, interactions with friends and colleagues, driving, paying the bills. There was not a moment to escape — even a small attempt at that sent the guilt machine into overdrive. A casserole caregiver could handle this with grace and humility, not a word of complaint or hint of resentment. I battled with both. No amount of foot pampering could combat it; besides I don’t like people touching my feet.
So here’s why I’m a martyr instead. I tend to suffer these inadequacies in silence. I’m sure it’s my fault that I’m not living up to casserole caregiver’s carefully constructed guide to caregiving. I wasn’t sure how to ask for help. No one could change the facts—mom is dying. No one could say the magic thing or fix it. So, what was the point?
What I didn’t know was that help was there in unexpected places, and it didn’t come from a “tips on caregiving article.” Get information and ideas now about caregiver support.
Confession time: Tell me one of your casserole caregiver “Don’ts.”