Jason's Connection is pleased to share a new blog from Tom Klinedinst, father to Tyler. His blog series is about his journey with his son, Tyler, and is intended to provide a voice to caregivers, especially those with disabled children.
The other evening I was considering the things I learned as a caregiver. I came up with five things I probably would not have learned on my own had I not cared for Tyler.
#1- Being a caregiver separates those who really love you from each of the pretenders.
#1- Being a caregiver separates those who really love you from each of the pretenders. We have all heard that when the chips are down you find out who your friends are. Well...multiply that by 10 as a caregiver. The best example I have is my in-laws. They freely admit that they are not specially equipped to care for a special needs person, and yet they put that aside and said they would use love and effort to be there for us any time we needed them. I could also call this point "I'd rather have 4 people who really loved me than 40 people who merely said they did."
#2- People are generally better than I gave them credit for.
#2- People are generally better than I gave them credit for. Over the last 25 years I have far and away seen more people go out of their way for Tyler than I ever imagined would. Most people will hold a door, lend a smile, or show support wherever they can. Of course, I have come across some buttholes, but they are in the thin minority.
#3- If you don't become your own advocate, you will be screwed.
#3- If you don't become your own advocate, you will be screwed. Every agency has 100 employees who knock door-to-door every day and tell special needs families what they are eligible for. You haven't seen one on your street? That's because it doesn't exist. It's up to US to ask questions, research, and claw for every benefit we can get. The more educated you make yourself, the better things will become.
#4- Being a team player pays off at every turn.
#4- Being a team player pays off at every turn. I will be blunt here. Nobody does favors for an a-hole. Think about it, we all have a neighbor who acts like a jerk, or a coworker, or a family member. Do we go out of our way to help them? No way. But similar people who help you or treat you kindly, you will do anything for them. It's human nature. When you carry a kind and team-oriented attitude, your special person will receive better care. The respect you give will be the respect given back to your special person.
#5- Your health matters...a lot.
#5- Your health matters...a lot. Even in the best of times, humans are generally fragile. Or fra-gee-lay if you have watched Christmas Story as often as I have. There is a balance that must be maintained or the body and mind will start to reject your personal plan and start going into business for itself. We can tell ourselves anything we like, but our body has a way of making decisions on its own.
The smartest people I know are the ones who do their very best, and then once a situation is over will sit back and evaluate what they can use as teaching moments. They know when they need to be a changing force and when they need to be willing to change for themselves.
Figure out as a caregiver what each experience is trying to teach you. Be willing to be open-minded and accepting to where the story takes you. Above all else, remember that we are serving another person, and their needs come before any personal feelings.
My Walk With Tyler is about my journey with my son, Tyler, and is intended to provide a voice to caregivers, especially those with disabled children. To be fair, I am not a therapist, or an expert on special needs, nor would I intend to pretend to be. My goal is to share all of the triumphs and heartbreaks that we have been through, especially during this transition into Tyler’s residential placement. Because there is no “manual” for caregivers to follow, we must help each other find the way. My hope is that through my advice, stories, and experiences that the reader can find nuggets to add to their own journey. To read more from Tom click here!