You the Caregiver

When you care, you create emotion.

Providing care to another person is a big responsibility regardless of your age. Caregiving is assisting someone with activities like bathing, grooming, feeding, household tasks, shopping, meal preparation, and companionship.

There may be times when you have to give up an activity you enjoy to help your family. You may feel lost in the shuffle or resent your older relative because of the demand on your time.

Negative and confusing feelings may be felt in a caregiving situation. You may have feelings of isolation, anger, love, fear, guilt, confusion and resentment. All of these emotions are normal.

Talking with someone will make you feel better. Like many others, you may have negative and confused feelings about caregiving. You may feel alone or guilty or be angry or resentful. All of these emotions are common.

Talking with someone is the best way to release emotions. Remember, there are other teenagers who are experiencing a caregiving situation. Exchanging ideas, feelings, and ways to understand what is going on will make your caregiving experience easier. Talk to a friend, parent, teacher, or cleric. Just talk!

Caring for yourself and another person is a balancing act

When you provide care, you may have to give up a planned activity. While it’s important to help, it’s also important to have time for yourself. When you provide care, it will be a balancing act between responsibilities at home, school, sports, clubs, and activities with friends. You are important! Care for your older relative but also care for yourself.

You may do many things for your older relative. All caregiving responsibilities are important.

Mirror Mirror…..

Isn’t it nice to hear a friend say "you look wonderful today" or " you sure are funny?" A Compliment can make you feel good about yourself. Did you know that saying positive things to yourself can make you feel good too?

Look in the mirror and say:
I like me because…….
Special things I do for myself are…….
Good things I do for others are…….
I am a special person because……..
I am important because…….

It feels so wonderful to hear good things about ourselves. And, it’s important to tell yourself "I am special."

Sharing Experiences

The teenagers who helped write this book want you to know that you are not alone. Tammy is a teenager who wanted to share her story with you.

Tammy’s Story

When I was eight years old I met my Step-Great Grandparents and my Step Grandfather. I have to admit I was scared when I first met them. My Great-Grandmother could walk with a cane only if someone walked behind her for support. She too, had a stroke and later developed cancer. My Grandfather had a crippling disease and was confined to a bed. All three of these people lived in one house where my mother took care of them.

At first, I was afraid to talk to them because I didn’t know if they’d understand me. Many times my feelings would be hurt by my great- grandma. Her stroke had changed her personality and sometimes she said things that were mean and insulting. I’d walk through the living room where she sat with my head down, hoping that she wouldn’t talk to me. I didn’t understand her so I avoided her. My relationship with Great-Grandpa was much different. I tried to communicate with him as much as I could. When he tried to tell me something he’d use his hands to point. He would smile if I guessed what he was trying to say. At times he’d do things and forget he did them. He would sneak cookies into his room and put them in a drawer for later and then forget about them. My grandpa was my favorite person to visit. At first I was uncomfortable with his confinement to bed. I didn’t dare ask questions about it because I didn’t know if it was something that should be talked about. I learned from him that humor is the best medicine, whether they can remember things or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick or well, laughter is great for everyone.

Grandpa would tell me jokes and play the harmonica. He showed me he was determined to overcome obstacles to do what he enjoyed.

I felt helpless when I didn’t communicate, so I did little things to improve communication. I smiled when I walked past my Great-Grandma and developed a sense of humor that helped me feel more comfortable. I started asking questions and talked to my family for support, all these things made it easier to help my mother with her caregiving responsibilities.

Humor is the best medicine

It is important that you feel good about yourself.

Maintaining a sense of humor can help you cope with the stress of caregiving. Let's face it, laughter and smiles feel good and good feelings are contagious. At times you may feel down. Humor is an excellent way to take the blues away. It’s okay to laugh and have fun! Caregiving can be a lot of work. However, it can be a rewarding experience. Remembering a funny experience with your older relative can make you smile and feel good.

Remember the good times

Ask your older relative about funny things that happened to them when they were young, or ask a parent to describe a humorous story that included your older relative.

Here are two incidents as told by teenagers:

"I remember my grandmother telling me that before they were married she and grandfather would drive all over the countryside on a motorcycle with a sidecar. It was fun trying to imagine her with a leather helmet and goggles on bouncing around all over the country in a sidecar!"

"Yesterday a friend came home from school with me. Grandma kept asking him over and over again if he wanted a cookie. My friend understands that she doesn’t remember things. When he left to go home for dinner his pockets were full of cookies because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

Keep a journal

Record your experiences as a caregiver. It will be fun to look back at this in future years and it will help you better understand your emotions and your work.

Sources: New York State Agency on Aging, Administration on Aging

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