“You’ve helped me so much”
“I couldn’t have done it without you”
“For the first time in years I have hope”
Statements like those are a huge part of why after 20+ years I still LOVE my job. To know you have truly helped someone is a feeling that I’m not sure can be beat.
While it’s easy to relish in the accolades and good feels, I know that behind the scenes there are folks doing so much more. They are part of ‘the environment’ that allows us to feel safe as we experience sensations or challenges that would suggest otherwise. They help me do my job better.
This post is for them, the caregivers.
I always learn a lot from my patients and I’ve probably learned my most important lessons from their support teams.
Caregivers come in different forms: spouses, parents, children, siblings, partners, friends, and even pets. Traditionally, a caregiver is a member of a person's social network. They provide assistance with activities of daily living when impairments related to aging, injury, disease, or mental health get in the way.
That definition is limited though. If we think more broadly of our support systems the most valuable thing we receive from caregivers is emotional support. When you care about someone you not only do it, you feel it.
But it’s not always easy.
Being a caregiver can be tough. No one wants to witness his or her loved one suffer. Pain and disability can challenge people in many ways. It increases stress, anxiety, and can lead to depression. Many of us get cranky when in pain. We struggle when our independence is taken away. Who has to deal with it? Typically, not your PT. Likely, it's your loved ones.
Taking care of someone is a time commitment. Sometimes your life is put on hold.
Pain and injury can affect relationships, everything from intimacy to a change in the activities you share. It’s the stuff folks rarely talk about because you’re trying to do the right thing. Most suffer in silence, fearing judgement as selfish or difficult.
Being a caregiver requires strength, tolerance, understanding and a willingness to accommodate. Sometimes it means being positive and supportive when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes it sucks. Big time.
Yet a person’s support system is a critical component to success in rehab. Whether it’s full hands on deck for help with daily life or you’re a remote voice who understands them better than anyone. Please recognize you all matter. Big time.
Not always, but often caregivers can be actively involved in rehab. Joining in client/patient education on exercises, self care, and pain management allows for reinforcement and support at home. While a caregiver shares in the struggles, you can also share in the wins.
To all the caregivers out there, especially the ones that have helped me; I want to acknowledge your importance. I know how difficult it can be for you. I see all of you and want to say THANK YOU.