A husband caring for his sick wife and 3 other stories on what caregiving is really like.
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Dignity Health

Being a caregiver is one of the hardest jobs in the world.

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Whether it's your profession, calling, or you're rising to the challenge for a loved one, there's no denying that taking care of another person full-time is an important and often unsung job. The work is mainly done behind-the-scenes, and as many caregivers will take you, most people don't take the time to ask "How are you?" or "Is there something I can do for you?" They see caregivers as unflappable. That means the humanity is sometimes a little lost.


But what's it really like to be a full-time caregiver? That's a question best answered by the people who've been there working tirelessly to make someone else's life more manageable and all around better.

We asked four people about the challenges, the rewards, and what they've learned. Here's what they want the world to know.

Taking care of her grandmother taught MaryEllen to see her family and herself in a new light.

Photo by Damir Bosnjak on Unsplash

When MaryEllen was 25, her grandmother's health began to decline. So MaryEllen moved in so she could take care of her during the day and work outside the home at night. She made sure her grandmother took her medication, drove her to appointments, cooked for her, and made sure that she stuck to her low-sodium diet.

All aspects of her caregiving job were difficult, but for MaryEllen, the hardest thing was taking care of someone who had taken care of her when she was young. "I saw her as more than just my Nana, but as the smart woman who was slowly losing her independence," says MaryEllen.

However, MaryEllen found a great way to deal with these feelings — humor. "Nana was fond of saying inappropriate things. When it's really hard, you just have to laugh."

Though caring for her grandmother was tiring — even with her mother and aunts helping — it gave MaryEllen a new perspective. "Caring for someone is the hardest best thing you can do. I got to know my nana beyond her role as a mother, wife, and grandmother. I got to see my mom in a different light: as a daughter losing her mother." And MaryEllen's mother, MaryEllen says, started seeing her as an adult.

Most importantly, caring for her grandma gave MaryEllen strength. "I discovered a new respect for myself," she says.

Mia is the parent of two special-needs girls. Taking care of them taught her to take care of herself, too.

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When her twin daughters were born prematurely, Mia's life changed forever. Her daughters, who are now two, live with cardiac and pulmonary problems. Even though all moms are expected to be on 24/7, this was something completely different.

"Caregiving is relentless and the tasks are never-ending," writes Mia in an email. "It's cliche to say that caregivers forget to take care of themselves but it is really true."

While Mia believes that the caregiving she does has endowed her with leadership skills that help her advocate for both herself and her children, she stresses that in order to be effective, she needs to practice self-care.

"Make a special effort to do something just for you and hold onto that for dear life," she writes. "This can be a hobby or a career — it's so important that you have an outlet that has little to do with your caregiving responsibilities."

That means going above and beyond to protect her energy as much as possible. Mia stresses getting enough sleep (a priority that often gets overlooked), eating good, healthy food, and moving around. But perhaps most importantly, she says you shouldn't be afraid to lean on your support network.

"Be fastidious in caregiving for yourself and it will reap rewards in your ability to care for others," she notes.

Taking care of her step-father taught Nora about a strength she didn't know she had.

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Nora became the primary caregiver for her step-father, Antonio, after he suffered a stroke in 2016. It was a role she hadn't planned to take on, so at first she struggled in ways she'd never known before.

"I remember the first holiday when I was left alone at home with him and my mom, I would cry over everything," writes Nora in an email. She'd been given crash courses in how to feed and clean her step-dad when he'd left the hospital, but she was in such a state of shock that she couldn't remember any of it.

"I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders."

Caring for her parent meant Nora had to choose between helping him and taking on other work. While she and her mother have additional caregivers helping them, Nora bears much of the responsibility. She cooks for her step-dad, keeps him company, and makes sure that he's safe and comfortable. Unsurprisingly, she sometimes experiences a great deal of stress and burnout. However, after two years into it, she's also thriving.

"I've stopped struggling with all the new information I've had to take in: I can change diapers, I can clean a person, I can do many things that never in my life I thought I could do," says Nora. "I appreciate how grateful my stepdad is for my work, however hard and frustrating some days are."

If there's one thing Nora wants others to know about the difficult job that so many do around the world it's that caregivers need support, too. Sometimes just a "thanks" can help.

"If you know a caregiver, ask them how they are, because it can be a really hard, thankless, and lonely job," she says. "Give praise, thank caregivers, and most of all, think about the fact that maybe one day you will need people who care for you as well. It is more common than what you believe."

Ben saw his role as a full-time caregiver as "bad casting" at first. Now he knows that "love conquers all."

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In 2015, Ben took his wife to the ER after she complained of severe abdominal pain. Tests revealed that she had an inoperable abdominal tumor. While aggressive therapy ultimately destroyed the tumor, that wasn't the end of Elizabeth's health problems. Right when she started feeling good again, she developed a back problem that's left her immobilized ever since. Treatment hasn't helped.

"I often have to help her get out of a chair and walk her to wherever she needs to go, and be ready twenty-four hours a day," writes Ben in an email. "Until a few months ago, Elizabeth couldn't even lie in bed — she had to sleep in her leather chair."

While both Ben and his wife are confident she'll get better, for now, she depends on him to get through the day. The couple has been together for 50 years, but Ben's found that his new role has taught him some important life lessons.

"The real stuff I've learned and continue to learn is about myself. My selfishness and ability to shut out another's discomfort when I want to are taking some big hits," he writes. "When I say that Elizabeth is the center of my life it is simply a statement of fact."

"I have to do nearly everything. This is exhausting but one does what is necessary, lazy and selfish or not. Caregiving to a beloved who is incapacitated is a real act of selfless love"

Ben has some advice for anyone who finds themselves in the position of becoming a primary caregiver to your partner: "Remember all your spouse means to you, all she/he has done for you and how much you have benefited from the relationship. You will be a better person from the experience."

No two caregivers do the same job. Each of their stories are unique. It's important to realize, though, that no matter the details, the work these people do is always invaluable.

Provide care around the clock is not easy, but as these stories illustrate, realizing the difference you're making in someone else's life is worth the challenge.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.