One of many takeaways from my evening with the Former First Lady was her often quoted belief that “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” The point Mrs. Carter is making is that care is a universal, shared experience. Every person—of every socioeconomic background and every race—at some point needs care. It is a fundamental human need and providing care is among our most important connections to one another.
Think of all the ways Shepherd’s Centers are caregivers. Our network offers a range of worthy programs, such as respite care, caregiver support groups of all kinds, caregiver education, and more. Our volunteers are caregivers when they drive someone to a medical appointment, drop off a meal or groceries, or make a friendly visit.
You, the local leaders of affiliates, are caregivers when you help connect someone to needed services. And you are a caregiver when you listen, support, and encourage a colleague from around the network because you understand the highs and lows of operating a Shepherd’s Center.
Recently, I read an article suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic happened in an exact manner the need for caregiving often happens—suddenly and overnight. You go to sleep peacefully and wake up to realize your world has shut down. You scramble for a few weeks trying to keep together your work, family, and health while trying to stabilize a caregiving crisis. Over time, you cobble together some kind of caregiving routine. (I instantly related to this comparison since it was how my caregiving experience began.)
Caring for a loved one can often be profoundly fulfilling since many times individuals move closer together when challenges arise. However, it can also become overwhelming, physically and emotionally challenging, and isolating. We excel at connecting older adults to community. Caregiving at its best takes a village—family and friends, support services, Shepherd’s Centers and their volunteers, and so many more. This month, as we acknowledge and celebrate all the caregivers among us, may we be reminded that we rise when we lift others…with encouragement, understanding, positivity, laughter, and kindness. In helping others, we find that our own lives have meaning and purpose.