ARGH: It's Not About Putting Your Life on Hold


ARGH: It's Not About Putting Your Life on Hold

trophy_640As I write this, I'm listening to the Quarterly Family Caregiver Coalition webinar, hosted by National Alliance for Caregiving. A presentation given about the Shire BRAVE Awards just ended. The award honors "ordinary people who give of themselves by caring for others in a meaningful, dedicated and selfless manner." Each recipient of a BRAVE Award receives $10,000 USD or the local country currency equivalent.

You can learn more about how to nominate yourself or another family caregiver here. You can submit a nomination until June 30, 2013.

An employee from Shire, plc, the award sponsor, spoke about the program and encouraged us to get the word out to you. After his formal presentation, an attendee asked, What are you looking for in the nominations?

The employee answered, We're looking for someone who has put their life on hold to be a family caregiver.

No, I screamed. No!! (A mute button means I'm the only one who heard my screams.)

This is exactly the message we work so hard to change--that you have to give up your life when you are a family caregiver. Oh, my, we work so hard to share suggestions, coping strategies, ideas, support so you don't put your life on hold.

And, just a few moments ago, another presenter during the webinar spoke about nominating a family caregiver for the award who she knows put her life on hold. I'm jumping out of my skin. ARGH!!!!

I don't mean to say that we shouldn't recognize that parts of life go on hold during caregiving. But, I worry so much that the message becomes this: You must put your entire life on hold because of caregiving.

In 1995, I started an award called Caregiver of the Year. (I stopped holding the contest in 2009 because so many companies started doing the same and gave away much better gifts than I ever could. Anyway...) When I created the award, I decided the criteria for the winning five family caregivers must reflect their ability to move through life with caregiving along side. It's not about stopping life for caregiving but about learning how to bring caregiving along.

In my award, an independent panel of judges chose five winners based on the following criteria:

  • The caregiver’s ability to complement their caregiving responsibilities with their own needs and interests.

  • The caregiver’s problem-solving techniques.

  • The caregiver’s use of community services.

  • The caregiver’s community involvement.

These criteria feature solutions, coping strategies and a life outside of caregiving, which become inspiration for others to think, "Maybe I can do that, too. Maybe I can have a life."

I think it's awesome to honor family caregivers. I love that we have awards now that give money to cash-strapped family caregivers. These awards get the stories out about family caregivers and their incredible impact in their families and our communities. I beg these companies who create these awards to really think about the message they're sending--and to make sure the message focuses on making compromises for caregiving not life sacrifices.

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