Our Favorite Young Caregiver Checks In

Never give up. Never stop fighting.

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daughter waving goodbye standing in doorway

Where has the time gone?

It felt like just yesterday that I was sitting down for the final exam of my freshman year, wondering what my software engineering internship would bring. Now, by the time you read this, I will be done with my internship and getting ready to fly back to Boston for my first ever in-person college classes. How can that be?

Whether we like it or not, time relentlessly pushes forward. And, while I cannot recall every moment that brought me to this position today, I can look back fondly at some of the lessons I learned, relationships I built, and precious memories I made over these last 3 months.

This summer, I worked my first full-time job. I spent 11 weeks working remotely and 1 week working on-site, across the country. I was blessed with colleagues and mentors who pushed me to become a problem-solver, communicator, and team member, and I was so lucky with the intern I was paired with for my project.

My intern partner and I were quick to get along. We supported each other in learning new technologies and architecting project deliverables. But things changed when we opened up to each other. A few weeks in, we learned that we were both family caregivers. Finally, we both had a young person in our lives who could relate to and truly understand our experiences at home. Finally, we had someone to celebrate the little victories with. Finally, we had someone to share challenges without fear of judgment or misunderstanding. Finally, we had someone who could offer helpful advice rooted in experience, not just “you should put her in a home.” Not only did this bring us closer together, but it made us feel less alone. I cannot wait to continue growing this friendship and supporting each other during the upcoming school year.

Outside of the internship, I found a healthier balance with my volunteer work by choosing to cut back my hours and communicate more openly with the director. I reconnected with old friends who filled my weekends with laughter, and who I grew closer to when I let my wall down. I also developed healthier nutrition and exercise habits that left me feeling more confident and energized. I even cleaned my room of clothes and knick knacks that stuck around for too many years, giving me a space that I could focus and relax in.

The growing pains were intense at times, but this summer, I became more okay with being a care partner from a distance, whether I’m clocked into my remote internship, sitting in my room for hours-on-end, or I’m living in a dorm, studying for an exam, in another state. Have I completely knocked the feelings of guilt? The feeling that I’m being selfish because I’m choosing myself over the people I love at home? No. But I have also seen that making space for myself, that prioritizing my own health and happiness, makes me a better granddaughter, daughter, sister, friend, and overall person. The cliche that you cannot pour from an empty cup is true.

While I was less involved overall in the caregiving responsibilities, I found that on the days I did change a soiled Depend or helped her through a moment of heightened confusion, I was more patient, understanding, and loving. I snapped at her less, and I was less reactive to fecal-issues in the bathroom, for example. I just enjoyed my time with her, whether we’re cracking nonsensical jokes at the kitchen table or riding antique cars at Cedar Point.

I know that not everyone has the opportunity to make space for themselves like this, but what I hope, dear reader, is that whether it’s through an adult day program, a family member, in-home care or some other source, you find a way. You deserve it.

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