See Us. See Me.

Denise
When I started my business in 1995 to support those who care for a family member, I could have named my monthly print newsletter and my website anything. Because I was early into the space, I had an endless option for names.

I could have chosen "Caregiver."

I chose "Caregiving" for my newsletter and my website. (I ended my print newsletter in 2005 to focus my efforts on my website. And so I could stay in business.)

I wanted to distinguish our personal identities from our responsibilities. I wanted to make sure that I spoke about caregiving as part of what we do to avoid assuming it becomes all of who we are. I'm very aware of the struggle to keep a life during a life of caregiving. Our stress survey results prove that point -- 72% of survey respondents say the source of their caregiving stress comes from missing their lives.

I'm often frustrated at how much discussion about our caregiving issues comes from the wrong place. Sometimes, when I talk about supporting family caregivers, I fight to keep the conversation on the family caregiver rather than on the caree. (Read What They Need Isn't What I Need.)

I'm also often discouraged when I talk about addressing the needs of family caregivers and the solutions often offered focus on making me more of a family caregiver. For instance, I sometimes want to scream that I don't need more training but I do need better trained health care professionals to help.

When I talk about supporting the family caregiver, I want the eyes to stay on the family caregiver. In this particular discussion, look at us rather than our carees. Look at our heart, which feels so much pain, rather than to our hands, which so capably manage the responsibilities.

Look at us. Sure, we're family caregivers. But we're also friends, spouses, family members, employees, employers, citizens, gurus, volunteers, artists, gardeners, golfers, swimmers, consumers, writers, achievers, individuals. We want to keep caregiving while keeping the rest of who we are, too. We need help so we can maintain our peace of mind as we help our family members and support so we can keep hope because we haven't given up everything, including ourselves.

When I talk about supporting the family caregiver, please look at us. See us. See me.

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