Caroline's Story

Submitted November 2020

I am a survivor of five caregiving experiences for family members, where in a moment’s notice, one phone call launched me into caregiving action. How I helped varied with each person’s life situation, age, health circumstance and how I was related to them. This meant that each time, I learned new skill sets and better ways to cope.

All five caregiving experiences began with a phone call.  Each call was a crisis. Each call meant that I needed to respond quickly, and all calls meant that I had to fly or drive a long distance to meet the needs of the crisis at hand. With this came phone calls, juggling of schedules, buttoning up things in my life, packing quickly and finding flights and organizing my world as best as possible before leaving. With long distance care came a sense of panic. I got better at it over time, but honestly, I never did get used to it.

My background as a clinical and school social worker gave me a leg up on knowledge about systems, finding resources and helping people in need; yet, I wasn’t fully prepared for the emotional aspects of the “job” of caring for a family member from near or afar. I imagine none of us are fully prepared for caregiving when we are “called for help!”

If I knew then what I know now, I may have had many of the same feelings and challenges, but I may not have been so exhausted, frightened, or felt so alone. Yes, I had people around me who cared and offered me support, yet the difference was the newness and the suddenness and the way things seemed to pile up on me, leaving me feeling like I was drowning in a sea of stress. Everyone’s story is different, yet a common thread exists in all our experiences. Asking for help and trusting others to help, was one of my biggest hurdles. And, of course, losing my loved ones was the most difficult part of my journey.

Submitted by Caroline H. Sheppard, MSW