JUST TRUST ME on this for a minute and go along with it, OK?
Let me ask you a question: Are you somebody who’s taking care of somebody who needs to be taken care of, whether they like it or not?
It could be a lot of care or a little bit of care or anything in between.
Yes? OK, you’re a caregiver, but I don’t really care whether you buy that label or whether you even remember it.
The fact is, most of us who would say yes to that question are not caregivers.
We’re wives, husbands, daughters, sons, grandchildren, friends, ex-spouses … you get it. But we don’t walk around thinking of ourselves as caregivers.
That’s fine. I don’t either.
And I’m not talking here about parents of children younger than 18, although I’ll be one of the first to admit that those folks provide serious care.
I’m talking about adults who are taking care of adults because something unfortunate has happened (or is happening) to them.
If your answer is still yes, please pay attention to this before we go on to anything else: Thank you.
In my opinion, you’re doing some of the hardest work there is, and in many cases, you’re doing it knowing damn good and well that things aren’t going to get better, but you keep doing it anyway.
That’s gutsy and that’s courageous.
If any of this is sounding at all like you to you, you know the feeling: It’s all day, every day, and you don’t think any further ahead than you absolutely have to because it would overwhelm you. Depress you.
You get through today, and at the end of today (if you’re smart), you’ll congratulate yourself for getting through today. Before you start thinking about tomorrow.
(Unless, of course, you had to make that next doctor’s appointment, which forced you to look at a calendar, which forced you to see all of those days … but just stick with today. I get it.)
I meant what I said about this caregiving stuff being some of the hardest work on the planet.
It can wear you out, wear you down and take your life away.
It can turn you into someone you never knew you could be and turn you into someone you never wanted to be, but here you are. And here you’ll stay, until …
I get it.
And some of us aren’t real good at accepting help, or even asking for help.
There are a lot of reasons for that, and most of us know what most of those are. Sure, there are good reasons and bad reasons, but it doesn’t really matter. We just don’t.
Or we wait until something bad happens, is about to happen or almost happened. Then we think to ourselves, “I should’ve asked for help.”
No, you should have asked for help awhile back, so let’s start there, which is right here, right now.
There is a thing called family caregiver support.
I suppose you could call it a program, but because it ends up being different for each one of us, it doesn’t seem very programmed.
If you’re doing the kind of stuff we’ve been talking about here and you’re not getting paid for doing it, you just qualified. Period.
If you’re in the Port Townsend/East Jefferson County area, you could call Jan Svien at 360-344-3013 (800-801-0050).
If you’re in the general vicinity of Sequim or Port Angeles, you could call Nancy McCarty at 360-417-8559 (800-801-0070).
If you’re anywhere near the West End, you could call Susie Brandelius at 360-374-9496 (888-571-6559) and just talk it over.
Nobody is going to try to make you do anything or sell you anything.
I know these folks personally, and I can look you right in the eye (metaphorically speaking) and tell you that they are genuinely decent people who care.
And you would be amazed (if you make yourself make that call) at how many ways these people might actually help.
Now, listen to this: At the beginning of this month, the state of Washington and the U.S. government made some rather dramatic new resources available to help these people help you.
And, of course, they are known by their acronyms — specifically, TSOA (Tailored Supports for Older Adults) and MAC (Medicaid Alternative Care).
And do you want to know what these “rather dramatic new resources” are?
Here’s what will happen if I tell you: You’ll start checking things off on a list.
What might actually accomplish something is to call one of these folks and just talk it over.
If one of these new things helps you, great. If it’s something else, excellent. And if it’s something in between, so be it.
Programs don’t help people; people help people.
I know you don’t have time, and I believe you.
I know that you don’t want to admit that you need help. I believe you.
I also know that you’re doing some of the hardest work there is, and there could be help.
I hope you believe me.
Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information &Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].