Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Caregivers and their support network

Meagan has a fantastic support network. It's based on purposeful cultivation over the decades. It's stunning to see the breadth and depth of support she has. As a man though, suddenly thrust into a role which removes you from the work environment where you got connections, feedback and support, it's more challenging. At least for this man. Like many executives I had work colleagues and acquaintances. But developing my own social network was never high on the agenda - it was about securing the family, providing, and supporting the development of the boys.

So when you are cut off from whatever interaction you had at work, and then are thrust into the maelstrom of caregiving while trying to understand the disease and take care of the boys - in those quiet moments in can feel pretty overwhelming and stressful. When Meagan is so well cared for by her posse, it can feel uncomfortable to be standing there alone. The boys have been great, stepping up as men and asking about me and what they can do to help. My family has also. Fortunately a few friends have really stepped up and offered the kind of support a male caregiver could use. Like what? Some examples:
1. Texting me and saying is there anything I can do for you today? Need to talk?
2. Asking me if I want to go for a cup of coffee and chat or a walk?
3. Taking me to lunch to just talk.
4. Sending me an email telling me they are thinking of me and inquiring as to what they can do.
5. Asking me if I need a break.

Meaningful gestures. I know they are living their own busy lives and worry they might be intruding at a time that's inappropriate. I've been in that same awkward place where you don't know what to do to help and don't know if calling/texting/emailing would be appreciated. Well, it is, and I now know I should do it for someone else in future.

One of my friends put it most eloquently, and it's worth repeating:
"I am saddened to hear that Meagan's treatment didn't arrest the progression. I kept thinking of you as the day progressed. When can I take you to lunch, for coffee, or a walk and try to lighten your load by an ounce or two?". Powerfully moving and simple.

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