Dear Annie: I am a caregiver. There are millions of us dispensing love 24 hours a day for weeks, months, even years to incapacitated family members. We have no sick days or vacation days. Sleep is a thing of the past. If we are not caring for loved ones, we are worrying about which bills to pay.
Many of us will have a shortened life span because of the toll such care requires. Friends and family fled long ago. Our phones are silent, and no one comes to the door. We have conversations mainly with ourselves. We live in a parallel universe where we are invisible to the outside world except for the medical staff who hold our hands through this journey.
November is National Caregivers Month. If you have a friend or acquaintance who is a caregiver, please go by their home and give them a hug. If you are a family member, show up. We know how hard it is to watch your loved one disintegrate, but by giving them attention, you may ease our burden for a few minutes. Serving others is a humbling experience. The process hones character, develops empathy and stops all judgment of others.
Death and dying come to all of us. By sharing our experience, you ready yourself for yours to come. – A Kansas Caregiver
Dear Kansas: Your letter arrived too late for November, but it is never too late to remind people to care for the caregivers. Caregiving is a difficult, often thankless responsibility. It is a full-time, unpaid, volunteer job. It requires tremendous patience and love and a large dose of strength – both emotional and physical.
It’s the holiday season, folks, and a good time to think of others. If you know someone who is a caregiver, please call or stop by and offer support. Ask whether you can run an errand, buy groceries, bring dinner or simply sit with them. If it is a family member caring for your loved ones, please appreciate this sacrifice and understand that they are also doing this for you. Step up and do your part.
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