What do NFL coaches, brain surgeons, and criminal defense lawyers have in common?
In this post, I'll answer this question and how it relates to a common question caregivers ask that prevents them from getting the support and information they are so desperately looking for when it comes to dementia caregiving,
This is another episode in a series on controversial and unpopular opinions in dementia caregiving.
I don't think it's okay for us to shy away from the hard topics that I see daily when working with caregivers and that you probably see an experience on a daily.
If you prefer to watch a video instead, click HERE.
There is a common question I hear frequently that I believe holds caregivers back.
I'm sharing it with you today in hopes that it will help you receive the help and support that could be available to you.
So, let's answer the question at the beginning of this post. What does an NFL coach, a brain surgeon and a criminal defense lawyer have in common? They have never actually done the thing or needed the thing that they are helping others with.
The majority of NFL coaches have never been an NFL player.
The majority of brain surgeons have never needed brain surgery themselves.
The majority of criminal defense attorneys have never committed a criminal offense.
Does that mean they can't help the person?
Does it mean because the brain surgeon has never had to have brain surgery, they can't help the person who needs it?
Or that the NFL coach who has never played professional football can't coach professional team?
Or that the criminal defense attorney who has never committed a crime. can't help a suspected criminal?
No. Of course, not.
But the question I hear a lot from caregivers whenever there is somebody who could potentially help them, is a version this question, "Have you ever cared for somebody with dementia?"
While I certainly don't think people could fully understand a caregiver's experience unless you've been in that position, I do believe that people who have not been a caregiver can still be helpful.
In fact, having the experience of caregiving could potentially be a downside when that person's personal experiences of caregiving prevent them from seeing things objectively.
In what other area of medical or mental health help do you ask this question?
Our natural human brains feed us all kinds of lines that sound logical and reasonable, and what we don't realize is by simply asking that question we are revealing a belief that unless somebody has been through it, they cannot be helpful.
Does the addictions counselor have to have gone through drug addiction to help others?
Does the brain surgeon have to have operated on a family member to be helpful?
Those individuals might not be the best person for you to talk about your hardships and difficulty. They may not be the best person to a commiserate with.
BUT they might be able to understand what medications they could prescribe or what behavioral interventions might work, or what the research shows.
It's wonderful to have everybody involved in dementia care.
But I wholeheartedly want to ask you to pause the next time you find yourself saying or thinking something like, "Unless you've cared for somebody with dementia, you can't help."
When you're only want to work with receive help from people based on whether they've cared for a person with dementia before, then I think you're setting yourself up to be in a bit of a disadvantage, and in some ways, closing yourself up from a lot of other possibilities that can help.
There's a lot of people out there who can be incredibly helpful on your caregiving journey, and I don't want you to close yourself off from possible sources of help simply because they don't haven't gone through a similar situation as you.
If there's any group of people who I see as looking for a lot of support and trustworthy information, it's dementia caregivers. I get messages from around the world every day, all day, 24 hours a day, and they're all looking for help or they have a specific difficult situation that they're wanting my feedback on.
And while I'm referring to healthcare professionals with this post, this can also apply to other well-meaning friends and family.
Careblazer, I'm sending you so much love.
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