The Worst Thing to Say to a New Caregiver

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by Brian Baez, Executive Coordinator and Caregiver Liason

Do you remember the first “Sex And The City” movie? Carrie Bradshaw goes through a rollercoaster of relationship experiences, ultimately bringing her back to “Mr. Big”. The plot of the movie centers around the planning and ultimate demise of the wedding between Carrie and Big, when Big gets cold feet.  The pivotal moment, when you know it’s about to hit the fan, comes at the wedding rehearsal dinner when Miranda, in a state of frustration, says to Big, “You’re crazy to get married”.

WHAAAAAAAT?!?!?! Why would you say that?!  I wanted to reach through the screen and shake Miranda! I had not given up 6 seasons of my life to watch it all ultimately fall apart!

I had my own Big/Miranda moment almost 2 years ago after my partner had his stroke.  I was a new caregiver and already scared out of my mind. Here I was, 28 years old, with a new mortgage and a partner I wasn’t positive I would ever be able to have a conversation with again. I was standing outside of the theatre where I was working when an old professor of mine came through the doors. She was always so calming and reassuring, with a zen about her. After asking about my partner’s progress and prognosis, she said to me, “You know, couples rarely make it through brain injury.” Just like that.  Boom. After what felt like an eternity of a blank stare, I excused myself and started my shift.

What makes someone say something like that? Didn’t she realize that those words would only serve to fortify every fear and insecurity I was already feeling? It brought to the surface that evolutionary instinct of fight or flight. Fight, I chose to fight. I was determined to defy those odds.

Caregivers need every ounce of support and help they can get, especially new caregivers who are riddled with anxiety about the unknown. When someone we love suddenly loses their ability to communicate with words, it makes what we say that much more valuable. Chose your words carefully. Caregivers have moments where they are just as fragile as those they are caring for. Ask yourself, “Are these the so-called words of wisdom I’d want shared with me?” What experiences have you had that have made you into the caregiver you are today?

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