What does it mean to be a caregiver?

A few months ago I was asked to write an article for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s  November issue because it was National Caregiver’s Month. I thought about it and let the words flow. The article was then published into MDA’s newsletter and the article is below:

 

What does it mean to be a caregiver?

Happy National Caregivers Month!

This role that we’ve been thrust in isn’t an easy one. I am a mom to 2 boys, Jackson (9) & Logan (6). Jackson was diagnosed at 2 ½ with mild autism and then a week before he turned 4 he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I was immediately lunged into a world I knew nothing about. It’s been 5 years since that dreaded day and I have learned so much about the disease, doctors, specialists, and research.

From the caregiver side of it all I know that most days my to-do list is never ending and I usually don’t even get half of it done. I feel like there is always more that can be done…fundraising, keeping up to date on research, doctor appointments, stretching, ordering medicine… the list is endless.

I want to focus on every primary caregiver for the muscular dystrophy patient.

I see you.

You have one of the hardest jobs in the entire world.

It is exhausting, relentless, and rewarding. It’s a completely different experience from many of your friends that have children. It’s fraught with its own sets of concerns and worries…should I place my child on steroids? What center is the best for care? What will the future look like for my child? All of those concerns you have are valid. This is a scary new world to have to be immersed in. Some days this diagnosis gets the best of me; it makes me feel sad and broken. I look at my son and I want to take the disease from him.

But more often than not, I have days where my perspective has changed and I know his days are limited, and I want to provide the best possible life I can for him. I want him to always feel loved, cherished, and adored. That he matters and that just because he is different, he is no less than.

To do that though, to be the caregiver that he needs, I also need to take care of myself. You cannot give from an empty cup, and when you do not do things that refill your cup, you will soon run it down to empty and no one can give from an empty cup. Find the thing that allows you to be recharged; whether that’s reading, going in nature, getting a pedicure, exercising, dancing, walking around Target aimlessly, or meditating. Sometimes for me it’s getting in the car and going for a drive with the windows down and the radio up singing at the top of my lungs. Even if you only have 5 minutes to do it.

Start small and go from there, because sometimes all you have is 5 minutes. Do what you can with what you have. But no matter what, do something that sets your soul on fire. That makes you feel alive and brings you back to the notion that you are a rock star. In order for you to be the best caregiver, it is essential to do things for yourself to avoid caregiver burnout. The last thing you want is to live in a space of being overwhelmed, anxiety ridden, unhappy and exhausted. What you do day to day is very, very hard and most people won’t even have the slightest clue about those things you do each day. Take time out from your busy schedule, find a way to recharge yourself, and remember that you are doing a great job!

-Crystal Gerhardt, Mom of Jackson + Logan

dmd caretaker



4 Comments

  1. Cindy

    January 2, 2018 3:37 am

    This was very well done! It’s so true that you need to recharge yourself to be able to continue to care for others. I took care of my ailing father for 3 years, but needed breaks here and there to come back stronger. My heart is with you all, those of you that give of yourself daily…and for years! You are Angels on Earth!

  2. chris gerhardt

    January 2, 2018 10:42 am

    Love You 2

  3. Leslie Zalecki

    January 2, 2018 6:15 pm

    But more often than not, I have days where my perspective has changed and I know his days are limited, and I want to provide the best possible life I can for him. I want him to always feel loved, cherished, and adored. That he matters and that just because he is different, he is no less than.

    This is what I’ve based my life on……..

    Trying to balance the impossible….home and work. It’s a tightrope everyday…keep walking it.

    Your strength is amazing! Much xxoo to you all.

  4. Brooke

    January 6, 2018 8:56 am

    Jackson and Logan are extremely blessed to be able to call you their mom!

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