Adapted in TC: Caring for the caregivers | News


Recently, my husband, Tom, and I returned from several days at the Rogel Cancer Center at the University of Michigan, for my breast cancer care.

After undergoing various tests, I received great news. The medicine I’ve been taking, is shrinking my cancer. One tumor is pretty much gone and the larger tumor is half its original size. My lymph nodes look better, too. This means that in early summer, I’ll be able to have a less invasive surgery at U of M.

We’re over the moon with gratitude.

Within days of being home from Ann Arbor, Tom caught a cold. A cold? What’s that? Since early 2020, we’d both been so proactive about not getting COVID, that we hadn’t had even a sniffle. Then I caught his cold. Together, it seemed odd to be going through boxes of tissues, cough syrup and other cold medicines.

One evening, I realized Tom could finally exhale. Relieved about my health news, he could let go of some of the stress and exhaustion of the past two years, last year in particular. In doing so, it’s not surprising he got sick.

As a society, we often don’t recognize the sacrifices caregivers make. Daily, we hear about nurses and other medical personnel experiencing burnout. The same is true for lay people serving as caregivers. Visit any medical waiting room, and you’ll see adult children serving as caregivers to their parents and grandparents, partners with their spouses and parents with their children. Often a daughter is sandwiched between caring for her growing children and her parents. There are also friends, siblings and neighbors serving as caregivers and folks utilizing the services of professionals.

There are lots of challenges related to our current caregiving situation. A shortage of caregivers, puts more pressure on families. Professional caregivers are often overworked and underpaid. Even with professionals, families often find themselves monitoring their loved ones care to guarantee their health and safety. Family caregivers also often spend thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs caring for their loved ones and the medical tasks they perform in the home, can be quite sophisticated; administering medications, bandaging, dealing with IV’s and drains, etc.

Sometimes families find asking for help difficult. Many people have told me they wished they had asked for more help, earlier. Instead, many waited until they were exhausted and out of options. But there are many resources available, like the Aging & Adult Services Agency through michigan.gov. Additionally, folks may want to follow two pieces of legislation; the Credit for Caring Act and H.R. 3733 Essential Caregivers Act of 2021.

Everyone seems to agree that we need more caregiving support groups, training, networking and respite assistance. We also need better pay for professional caregivers. Some in need of caregiving offer free room and board, as well as wages, to qualified people needing housing.

In all of the ways we can, let’s honor the crucial work caregivers provide.

Contact Susan Odgers at odgersadapted@yahoo.com. She is a 35-year resident of Traverse City and has been using a wheelchair for 46 years. She is a faculty member of Northwestern Michigan College and a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.