During a drive to work I began thinking about the differences between an “average Joe” and a caregiver in terms of personality and temperament. Not to say we’re not “normal” (what is normal anyway?) or like every other human being, but I believe there is something that sets us apart.

1) Caregivers fill the gap systemically.

You make the phone calls. You take them to their appointments. You give the baths. You make the food. You do it all. So why is it so hard for others to see the need? Because you saw the bigger picture of what what needed, doesn’t mean others have or that they ever will. This was the hardest truth for me to manage as a caregiver. You see a need. A great need that isn’t easy, and choose to serve your loved one anyway. I cannot think of a more beautiful love.  Through the resentment, betrayal from others, or envy you may feel, remind yourself that that this journey is a testament of your lovingkindness. You have a gift to be see what is needed in the various systems of your loved one’s life. You are not perfect, but you do what you can do fill the gap. Simply, those who would not see a need would not be able to help…definitely not in the ways that you do. 

2) Caregivers have strong values.

You understand that there are standards we are to aim for in our lives, including a quality life. Your being in the midst of your loved one’s life proves that your aim is to help them thrive. Having a value system has a huge impact on how we make life decisions and prioritize our time. Again, because our values may differ from others, we can feel slighted quite often. We are looking through our own lenses and it seems so clear what we are striving for. This is what I love about caregivers– instead of choosing the path of least resistance (social norms or values), you choose to follow your moral compass (intrinsic values) instead…even if it means much more hardship.

I encourage you to take a small moment of your time and write out your top three values of life. Mine would look something like: 1) Communication and respect are key in any relationship 2) Family comes first 3) Show kindness to others even when it isn’t received. I would love to hear what yours are in the comments below.

3) Caregivers are leaders.

In order to be able to effectively caretake for someone, there are times we have to take hold of the reigns. We have to make the tough calls about our loved one’s health, safety, or security. Caregiving gives us additional purpose and call to action… a reason to advocate for more. Personally speaking, I never saw myself as a “leader” personality. I grew up painfully shy and am very meek-spirited. I believe caregiving showed me the reserves of strength and qualities I never knew I had deep down inside.

I hope you too are able to see how caregiving has grown and moved you. I hope you are able to see that you are a shining light in darkness. I hope you see that you are not set aside, but set apart from others. You are a caregiver.