First Lady Rosylann Carter. Image credit: Rosylann Carter Institute
“There are only four kinds of people in the world: Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”
– Rosalynn Carter
I suspect when First Lady Rosalynn Carter said this, she did not know with absolute certainty, which of these four categories she would occupy in her life. To my understanding, she filled all four.
Regardless of your political leanings or your opinion of her husband’s effectiveness as President, we must all acknowledge that this former First Lady was a caregiver for the unhoused (Habitat for Humanity), the mentally ill (National Association of Mental Health), and the disadvantaged (Jefferson Award).
Mrs. Carter was president of the board of directors for the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, that focuses on the work of families and professionals caring for those living with disabilities or chronic diseases.
Over the last 50+ years, as we have seen the care of the disabled move from institutions to family care, the concept of respite care has been moving towards greater consciousness. Each of us experiences stress as a part of our everyday life. However, those who provide care for a family member with a disability, particularly those with complex needs, may experience stress that can, at times, be almost without relief.
At times like these upcoming holidays, caregivers may experience burnout so great that there are personal health issues, poor self-care, depression, and mood swings. Now is the opportunity that each of us can consider joining the category of “those who will be caregivers.”
Think of who you know who is the primary caregiver of someone with a disability. Consider the gift of respite care by:
- Caring for their loved one while they get some personal time for a movie, an afternoon out, or just a quiet walk.
- Taking their loved one for an outing or a walk.
- Providing a meal and staying around to do the clean-up afterwards.
- Making a phone call to check in on them or find something that all of you can do together.
- Reaching out to family and friends to make that respite time a routine for them. It can be hard for them to ask for help.
One of the greatest holiday gifts can be the gift of your time and concern. Do what you can with what you have. It will be time well invested and a gift much appreciated.