two people chatting on the couch

Redefining the Term "Caregiver"

Even as someone with MS, when I think of the term “caregiver”, I have a particular image in my head. That of someone who is constantly there to help someone who can barely do anything for themselves. Someone by the side of a completely disabled person, helping with their every need. While there are caregivers who are very much in that situation, there are many that are not. I want to help redefine what many people think of the term “caregiver” or at least the image they get in their head. I want to do this, because even if a caregiver isn’t helping with every single need, they are no less important to the lives of the people they help care for.

Many types of caregivers

I’m probably not really redefining anything for many of you; that’s great, but I do think there is a large part of the population who thinks that you are only a caregiver if you are helping someone on the far end of the disability spectrum. There are, however, many caregivers who are still extremely important to people who don’t need 24/7 help. I think it’s important to acknowledge those people. Not only are they invaluable to people like me, but they also have to contend with many of the same hardships and emotions that other caregivers experience. In short, it can be difficult for anyone providing care, regardless of how much and how often they have to do it.

Even those who are mostly independent need help

My roommate is one of these people. I’m a fairly independent person and in no way need round the clock care. I can usually get around my house, cook and clean for myself, walk my dog, and do many normal things (yes, even get out and go to the bar). That is, until I can’t. My MS symptoms can be extremely unpredictable. There are days when I simply can’t get out of bed and days when I am fine and suddenly need to go back to bed (or at least to the couch). That’s when I need some help and I am lucky enough to have someone I live with that is happy to assist me. As independent as I am, I still have moments when I need someone to make dinner, or pick up groceries, or someone to walk my dog, or even help me up after a fall. That’s tough to admit, but it’s true.

It's not a one-sided relationship

My roommate, who is also a close friend, has ended up being one of these caregivers. She sees the very worst of me. She sees and helps me when I am at my most vulnerable. That can be tough for anyone to deal with and she handles it well. It would be easy to think, “well, why does she do this?” I like to think, however, that it isn’t as one-sided a relationship as it may seem. I like to think I provide something, even if I can’t always think of what that may be. Never underestimate the power of your company and friendship. That’s pretty true of any caregiver/receiver relationship. Both sides do get something, even if it isn’t always apparent.

Small efforts can make a big impact

So I’ll try to make this somewhat brief and simply point out that there are a ton of people that are caregivers (they may not even realize it) that don’t fit the mold of what society thinks. These people are no less important than someone who helps with every single thing. The reality of living with a chronic illness like MS, is that even the smallest of efforts, can have a major impact on our lives. Although I don’t need help all of the time, when I do, it’s pretty crucial to my continued existence. So thanks to all the caregivers out there, even the those that don’t realize they fit in that category!

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