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Seeing and Honoring the Family Caregivers in Your Life

Guest Post and Caregiver Spotlight Post by Chelsea Anders

November is National Family Caregivers Month (#NaFaCaMo). In the spirit of the month, Who Lives Like This?! and Little Lobbyists are partnering to honor caregivers. For the rest of the month, we will be sharing YOUR stories. Fill out this 10 minute submission form to be included in our caregiver spotlight. Nominate your friends and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE.

To kick things off, I wanted to share my thoughts on why we should all take the time to SEE the caregivers around us.

On some days, I’m able to think of myself as just a mom -- not a nurse, an advocate, or a medical equipment wrangler. On most days, though, I feel like a physical therapist, an insurance agent, and a med student in my 111th year of residency. I’d give every one of my organs to this child that loves Bubble Guppies and just wants to run across the front yard. I’d give my last ounce of energy and all my retirement savings to make sure she’s healthy and progressing. I’d go talk to a Congressman and hold a sign on the steps of the Capitol to make sure that her voice is heard. I’d give everything and am giving everything every day because I’m a family caregiver.

I’m not alone and would venture to guess that most caregivers aren’t out there looking for credit for the job that they’ve chosen or has perhaps chosen them. But, boy howdy, do we need the credit. We need to hear, even when we're not so confident, that what we're doing is the right thing and is making a difference. We need to hear that there is no one that can take better care of our loved ones than us. We need to hear that it’s ok to take a break and to have a break-down. We need someone – anyone -- to occasionally bring us a coffee, or a whiskey, or a cheeseburger.

My life was forever changed when my daughter, Olivia, was born two months early via emergency c-section on New Year’s Eve (yep, you guessed it, all our medical team took vacation on the same night). She had a birth defect that we had a handle on, but we had no idea what was coming. On day eleven, an MRI showed us brain damage, and on day I’m-not-sure-anymore, it showed periventricular leukomalacia. The result is diplegia and right hemiplegia cerebral palsy. Olivia doesn’t walk, talk, or do anything independently yet, but if I’m the caregiver I think I am, she will someday. She’ll do whatever the hell she pleases, and I’ll be right there making sure of it. I’ll be burning the candle at both ends and clearing her path to the best of my ability, because that’s my job. I’m a family caregiver.

If you know parents, grandparents, or anyone that takes care of someone with complex medical needs, who works to ensure that they can BOTH have a better life, you might reach out to them. You might take one moment to tell that person you SEE them. Do it even if there is nothing you can do to help (or anything they will let you do, because we caregivers are often resistant to accepting help). Caregivers are good people walking a tough but very rewarding path. They work harder than the average parent and should be acknowledged! A greeting card, a pop-by on a sunny day, a casserole -- let someone know you appreciate their effort during National Family Caregivers Month!

Be sure to submit your caregiver story. Come visit us @wholiveslikethispodcast and @littlelobbyists and "like" our FB pages to join the community and conversation about caregivers and our special kids!

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