Caregivers Helping Caregivers

Caregivers Helping Caregivers

For many months after a loved one’s traumatic brain injury, caregivers will hear endless versions of the question, “How are you?”

“How’s it going?”

“How are you managing?”

“You look tired; are you alright?”

Many will answer, “I’m Fine.” This was the answer I delivered most often, since the truth would take too long, hurt too much to reveal, and I didn’t want to sound like a sad sack or a whiner.

Luckily, many of my family and friends watched as well as listened. They saw my pale face, my tired eyes, and stiff shoulders. They left beautiful notes in my mailbox, and gifts on my porch. Some even stopped asking questions and changed over to statements:

“I’ll pick the girls up from dance for you tonight.”

“I booked you for a massage at 10 a.m. on Thursday. Be there.”

“I made too much baked ziti. Here’s some for you.”

And one wonderful man, who also happens to be our dentist, said nothing. Instead, he just showed up and mowed our lawn — several times!

I remember every one of these simple acts of kindness; they form the building blocks of my life, the moments I reflect on most often when I need a lift. A hand held for comfort, a home cooked meal lovingly prepared, or a favor fulfilled when it’s most needed, can heal as well as any medicine.

Comments (6)

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I am so grateful, Rosemary, for your sharing feelings that validate the rest of us and what we go through and finding those moments of uplifting compassion from others. After 45 years, I am doing "fine".
It's amazing how such small gestures stay with you forever, and when you need that love and support you can draw on them long into the future and gain great strength.
This is the essence of real caregiving for me, actually giving care. Of course it's important to listen to people and be there for them emotionally, but so much of the life of caregivers is actually DOING things. If you can give them the chance to relax and have one less thing to worry about -- a meal, an errand -- that's a true gift.
I'm so glad you have a good support system that knows when to look through the "I'm fine's". Many people want to help, but don't feel qualified to 'take care' of someone with such injuries. To anyone who wants to make a difference, but feel uncomfortable in a caregiver situation, please recommend contacting a local care-giving establishment that handles 'respite care' their easy to find and specialize in giving regular caregivers a break!
I remember when I was going through this when my son had an accident and people would as this question, I just remember thinking, "I want my son whole again, that's all I want". I had no clue what I needed. I was emotionally, mentally, and physically drained. I too had friends drop off food, pick up my daughter for dinners out after her homework was done, people giving my husband gas cards since our son was in a hospital 1 1/2 hrs from our home and I was living there for the time being. The one small thing I always now do for people is enclose a book of stamps in a card. Bills still had to be paid and when I ran out of stamps I didn't want to go to the store and face people. A neighbor picked some up for me on a weekend I was home. Whether the gesture is big or small, they all help.
Thank you so much Rosemary for creating a place for caregivers to find someone who understands. My husband was in an accident in October 2, 2011. He was in a coma for 3 weeks and the hospital for over 2 months. When he came home my life became a roller coaster of care for the man I love who was a different person. Your book was my life line. Thank you for writing such an intimate book on brain injury as there is not much out there. You are an inspiration to me and even though we have never met you have helped me so much!!