​Caring For Those Who Care For Us

Posted by Howard Menaker in Life After Paralysis on February 14, 2023 # Caregiving, Lifestyle

howard and patrickAs we deal with the limitations, pain, and effort required to get through each day with a spinal cord injury, it is easy to focus only on our own needs: “I want this.” “Can you get me that?” “I don’t have the strength to do that. Can you do it for me?”

But we need to stop, think, and show our appreciation for the heroic caregivers in our lives. Most of us cannot afford full-time a professional caregiver, and wouldn’t want them around our homes all the time anyway. If we are fortunate, we have family members, spouses, or friends who are our 24-hour caregivers. They prepare our meals, help us stand or walk, do the chores around the house, and perform a million other tasks that get us through every day. Because they are always there, hour after hour and day after day, it is easy to overlook their Herculean efforts. But we need to stop, express our appreciation, and give them a break once in a while.

Some ways to show our appreciation are easy. Say “please,” when you ask them to help you, and say “thank you” every chance you get. A “thank you” takes no time or effort for many of us, yet it means the world to our loved ones. Everyone wants to know they are appreciated. Sometimes, expand on that gratitude: “I cannot thank you enough for helping me do my home exercises. You are helping me become stronger and healthier.” You will be surprised by how much these little words mean.

Many of us cannot get out of our homes to go shopping, but the Internet brings the world to us. If you can, shop online to buy birthday presents, anniversary gifts, or holiday presents. Better yet, buy something when there is no occasion. How much joy will your loved one feel when an unexpected gift arrives in the mail?

Show your care for your caregiver by giving them a break of an hour or two, or a whole day off. Almost all of us have someone in our lives who cares for us (and for the person who cares for us) enough to help out once in a while. You know that person who asked when you were first injured, “How can I help?”? Ask them to give your caregiver “time off” to go to a movie, to walk in the park, to go for a run, or just to sit quietly with a glass of wine and a book, knowing we are well taken care of, and they do not have to worry. The physical help they give us is often exhausting, but the worry and emotional toll is an even greater burden. If you can, have a friend come to your home once a week, or even once a month, allowing your loved one to get away. They may have lunch with one of their friends, visit a local museum, or get a massage (that you treated them too!), which will afford them room to breathe. If they know our needs are met while they are away, they can put the constant worry and concern on hold.

And don’t overlook the physical needs of those who care for us every day. Encourage them to go to the gym to get exercise, recommend meditation, or let them relax for a while after dinner to regain their energy. You probably know what will recharge their batteries and give them strength.

Finally, always remember that they love us. Show them your love – every single day. A hug or a goodnight kiss can mean the world. Cuddle. Say “I love you” often. Say it again. Don’t ever forget to show your love.

Care for yourself, certainly. But care for those who care for you as well. It is essential to their well-being as well as yours.

Howard Menaker is a retired communications and public affairs executive, with over 30 years of experience in international corporations and trade associations. Previously, he worked as an attorney, specializing in civil litigation. He now devotes much of his time serving on non-profit boards of directors, including a prominent theater company and a historic house museum in the Washington, DC area. He and his husband split their time between Washington and Rehoboth Beach, DE.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.