Part of the caregiving experience seems to be a deep need for caregivers to share their stories. This desire stems from wanting others to know about the joys and sorrows of caregiving as well as an ongoing need to help others.
TYLENOL® recognizes this and wants to support caregivers not only during National Family Caregivers Month but afterward by providing, through their #HowWeCare campaign, a forum for caregivers to share their stories with larger audiences than they might otherwise have the opportunity to reach.
The company recognizes that providing care for a loved one with a health condition is a challenging role that people don’t necessarily ask for and often don’t expect. They have stepped forward to support and acknowledge the 34 million Americans who have, during this past year, come to provide care to a loved one over the age of 50. My own caregiving connections have shown me how family caregivers dedicate themselves to their loved ones’ health and well-being every day.
Many of my regular readers know that I began family caregiving by taking over as a primary caregiver for my neighbor, Joe. Joe was completely deaf and through our five years together until his death he also became very nearly blind. Yet, we had a great time together. Caring for Joe was immensely satisfying because I not only helped him, but he helped me grow as a person. Besides, he was lots of fun!
As years went by, my aunt and uncle who had no children moved to be closer to family and I became a caregiver for them. Not long after that, my dad had brain surgery because of a WW2 brain injury that came back to haunt him. Dad was my first and most dramatic experience in dementia caregiving because his dementia happened literally overnight, brought on by the surgery. The ten years of Dad's life that he lived with severe dementia were incredibly painful, yet held vivid periods of joy because I learned to live in his world. We’d been close before his dementia, but I believe that we became even closer during those ten years.
Also, during this time, both of my in-laws needed care. My mother-in-law provided my first experience in caring for someone with the type of dementia that we know as Alzheimer’s disease. My father-in-law suffered debilitating strokes, so they were both in need of my care for a time.
My own mother’s health was slowly deteriorating during all of this, too, and her needs added to my daily care routine. I have often said that there is must be a square-shaped route worn in the streets that went from my house to my mom’s apartment, back to my home, then again to hers, then to the nursing home to see Dad and my uncle, then to my mother-in-law’s to make her lunch, then to the nursing home to pick up mom and take her back to her apartment. This went on daily for years, yet we still managed to enjoy ourselves.
Those two decades were anything but easy. Yet I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not only did they provide opportunities for enormous personal growth, but they also provided some of the most tender, enduring memories of my life. There’s a bonding that goes with caregiving that tends to strengthen love even with enormous challenges. The opportunity to care for them all was an incredible gift.
Just a note about the #HowWeCare campaign. There is an opportunity on the site to buy gift cards that can help caregivers with transportation and handyman chores. TYLENOL® has partnered with Uber and Handy to make buying these cards for caregivers an easy task. So, not only is the campaign there to help you share your story – their primary focus – but it is there to help others buy a special gift for a caregiver if that’s what they’d like to do.
My caregiving friends, you now have a unique forum for your stories. I’m excited to read them. Share your own caregiving story using #HowWeCare on social.