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Caregiver…wait, what?

Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro


About two months ago, I became a full time caregiver for a dear friend, someone who I have come to think of as a second mother. We have been friends since 2009, having met at an art gallery opening in Providence. From there, she became a mentor and shaped the way I write, the way I see art and my general overview on life. She has even influenced my role in the newspaper, being the biggest non-Anchor supporter of my role as Editor-in-Chief. She is also a former Editor-in-Chief, though of a different publication, and in having that experience has been a major sounding board for me. I can come to her with anything, knowing that she is a safe space and is always in my corner.

Being a full time caregiver is not something a person can truly understand until they experience it. It is often stressful, depending on your loved one’s diagnosis, and comes with a lot of experiences. Family caregivers often have a lot of questions: are they doing the right thing, could they have done something different, should they call an agency for help, what to do if they need help, what if?

Overall, it is a truly rewarding experience. You get to spend a lot of time with your loved one, seeing a side of them you may not have seen before. There are a lot of stories to be shared and a lot of time spent together also means that you learn all the family secrets.

There is another important aspect to this: caregiver support. Oftentimes, they are on their own. The person being cared for also suffers in some respect, as it can appear that people step back and care less.

As is the case with my friend, our families aren’t involved much. They are because we enforce it with phone calls, but when it comes down to it, it is just us. She has friends who have expressed concern, because as far as they are concerned, I am a newcomer in this situation. I try to give the benefit of the doubt knowing that they do not know the whole story, but even that has backfired on us.

During the time we have spent together, she has had one major health concern. Because I am also a CNA, I am not affected much by this. As a friend, I am worried, scared and having a lot of intrusive thoughts. Not having an immediate plan of care is worrisome to us both, but for her sake, I need to keep my wits and help where I can. She’s watched me break down over this and while that was not my intention, it really only enforced that in the end, it’s just us.

That is not to say that I don’t have a support system in place, but very few people know the entirety of the situation, or the reservations I had when I stepped into this role. Most of my support system has never been in a position to care for a loved one or have been in a position where they need care. It is an entirely different ballgame.

In addition to taking care of my friend, I am also working full time and attending school, taking on three classes, including a lab and a clinical. I am a nursing major. Personally, I do not find it hard to balance all of these responsibilities. My friend and I work well together, have plans in place and even share a color coordinated calendar. She is a recently retired professor, having spent over 30 years in higher education and she prioritizes me and my education.

I am so grateful and blessed to be in the position that I am in, to be able to care for and to spend so much time with her. Things with her are as perfect as they can be, though there are a few things we would like to ask of other people:

Please be empathetic. Together, we are working hard to heal ourselves, both physically and otherwise. We acknowledge that you may not understand our situation, and that is okay, but we also are not in a position to be able to just drop everything to appease someone else.

Voice your concerns, but know that you do not know the whole story. Butting in is not appropriate. We share a unique bond, one that others may never understand. Finding and signing us up for external resources is not cool, unless we express a need or desire. Even then, we know where and who to turn to.

Please be patient with us. We are not stressing each other out and there is no need for you to do so either. We take things one day at a time, the way we need to. Consistent last minute things are not good for either of us.

Respect. Not just for ourselves as individuals, but for our routines and habits that we have had to acquire.

Lastly, please know that if we need something, we’ll ask you. Otherwise, don’t get involved.



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