Let’s Give Thanks for Our Family Caregivers All Year Long

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by Halsey Blocher |

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banner image for Halsey Blocher's column "From Where I Sit," which shows an open book among ferns, along with some closed books and a pair of glasses

It takes a lot to manage daily life with SMA. From the mundane to the extraordinary, everything I do — although it takes much more than just myself — requires a practiced juggling act consisting of medications, specialists, assistive technology, medical equipment, appointments, adequate rest, and helping hands.

One of the most vital parts of any care team, one which helps keep all of those balls I’m juggling from chaotically crashing down, is the caregivers. They’re the people who make sure our needs are met, help orchestrate our hectic life, advocate on our behalf, clean up all the messes, share in our joy and laughter, and so much more.

Caregivers come in many forms and from various sources. In the SMA community, it’s not uncommon for the role of the primary caregiver to be filled by a parent, even after we reach adulthood.

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For many, receiving care from a parent offers security and reliability that’s not always guaranteed when hiring outside caregivers. It also comes with the benefits of a familiar and comforting companion and the kind of expertise that can only be gained from a lifetime of firsthand experience.

It’s not just people with disabilities who lean on the care and support of their parents, either. While not everyone requires the lifelong physical care that those of us in the disability community depend on, it’s natural for us to turn to a loving parent to help fulfill our needs and desires. Whether it takes the form of childcare, financial assistance, life advice, or companionship, most of us are the beneficiaries of our parents’ care long after childhood.

In August, I had the pleasure of working together on a column project with my good friend and fellow SMA News Today columnist Ari Anderson. In his half of our collaboration, Ari writes, “… if I didn’t have my mom, who didn’t become a nurse until many years after I was born, I wouldn’t be the author and advocate I am today. If my mom hadn’t had the will to learn my care and the ropes of Medicaid and Medicare, I would’ve gone to live in a facility instead of at home.”

Like Ari, I have a team of home healthcare nurses, and my mom cares for me at all times when nurses aren’t scheduled or available, which allows me to continue living at home. My mom has served as my primary caregiver, alongside filling other roles and responsibilities, since I was born. She’s the person who’s lovingly and selflessly present to care for me every day without fail.

Two women, one younger and one older, are seen in a head-and-shoulders shot. The young woman has glasses, long brown hair, and a tracheotomy tube. She wears a shirt with horizontal stripes of light blue and dark blue. Beside her, the older woman has medium-length brown hair, a light blue shirt, and seems to have a white T-shirt under it. Both women are smiling. Behind them is a shelf unit with some tchotchkes.

Halsey Blocher and her mom, Heather Dye, spend a day together and pause for an afternoon selfie on Oct. 20. (Courtesy of Halsey Blocher)

Along with all the other family caregivers out there, my mom deserves an infinite number of gold star stickers for her dedication to caring for me as well as the rest of our household.

As it turns out, there’s actually an entire month designated for recognizing people who care for disabled or older loved ones. The purpose of National Family Caregivers Month, which occurs every November in the U.S., is to express appreciation for family caregivers and raise awareness of their efforts and needs.

Coincidentally, November is also the month of Thanksgiving. With both of these occasions taking place within the same month, it seems only fitting to give thanks for all of the dedicated people who choose to spend their time giving of themselves so that someone they love can thrive.

ALS News Today columnist James Clingman also understands the importance of what caregivers do for their disabled loved ones. James is the gracious recipient of the care that his wife provides for him, and he’s a strong advocate for caregivers. In a column titled “Who Cares for the ALS Caregiver?” he says, “Many of us would not be here were it not for caregivers, our personal angels.”

No matter what, our caregivers are always by our side serving as a lifeline and everything else we need. That alone is more than enough to make them deserve our gratitude.

National Family Caregivers Month and Thanksgiving each come only once a year, but we should be acknowledging and giving thanks for our caregivers year-round. They’re not going anywhere at the end of the month, and with everything they do for us, it’s really the least we can do for them.

Do you have a caregiver in your life whom you’re thankful for? Tell me about them in the comments below!

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

The post Let’s Give Thanks for Our Family Caregivers All Year Long appeared first on SMA News Today.