No, I'm Not "Tougher Than Tough"
Apparently, November is National Family Caregivers Month, at least according to the Caregiver Action Network. Me bad. I guess I was supposed to know that on November 1! But to be honest, between caregiving, attending a conference to work on my business, maintaining something of a relationship with my significant other, and managing the other aspects of my life, I never knew – or thought to check. But now I know, thanks to an email newsletter I receive from a home care agency.
So … I decided I needed to find out more. I went to the Caregiver Action Network website (caregiveraction.org) and, sure enough, there it was in big, bold letters: National Family Caregivers Month. Awesome! I’m all about awareness, publicity, support for this huge challenge many of us face. And if there are things like free massages, flowers, and other gifts involved, even better.
But then I read the words immediately following: Supercharge Your Caregiving! The theme of the month is Supercharge Your Caregiving? Nooooo!! Please. I can’t handle being supercharged. I’m sure this theme is well-meaning and implies there are resources and tools to help someone who is caregiving an elderly loved one. Label me hypersensitive, but to me, this implies that if you just gather a few helpful hints, tweak your calendar, and put on your big-girl (or big-boy!) pants, you can handle this caregiving gig, no problem. In my view it marginalizes what is an overwhelming responsibility.
How do you supercharge your caregiving when there is nothing left in the tank to supercharge? There is nothing that sets my teeth more on edge than yet another rally cry to dig deep for that supposedly untapped energy to soldier on in your caregiving. It reminds me of that similarly well-meaning but, in my view, psychologically dangerous call to arms to women all over America: Yes, you can have it all. The high-powered job. Beautiful children. Loving husband. Spotless home.
No, you cannot. And, no, you cannot do it all when it comes to caregiving an elderly loved one – particularly one with a challenging personality.
The Ad Council produces public service announcements for worthy causes. Here’s one I hear on the radio periodically (spoken in a military, tough-guy voice): “OK, men. Time to be an all-star caregiver. Drive them to physical therapy, doctor’s appointments. Be there emotionally and physically. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up” (before directing them to resources from AARP).
How about this one: “For those fortunate enough to help the person who has always been their hero, find the care guides you need to help at aarp.com.” (I’m sorry, but most caregivers would not consider themselves to be “fortunate” in this regard; at least I don’t.) Yet another ad proclaims that caregivers are “Tougher than tough.”
We are not tough. We are not tough at all. We are just caring individuals stepping up to do what needs to be done, often with little to no support. So while a month devoted to caregiver awareness is a great thing, maybe the message needs to be tweaked just a little. Personally, I’m focusing on November 21, which I have been told is Kiss a Caregiver Day. Now that one sounds like a lot more fun!