When you are caring for someone who, for whatever reason, is not able to basic daily functions for themselves, there are days where you may feel like a glorified babysitter. There are days when you’re heartbroken, frustrated, and tired, and you wonder if what you do really matters.
But when someone else doesn’t think what you do matters, that’s when you can really lose your mind.
That’s what happened to Beth Sturgis, who works as a caregiver for Bluebird Care in the United Kingdom. She was tired of people assuming her job was just clean-up or helping someone use the restroom. She wanted people know why she chooses to do what she does, and why caregiving is so meaningful both to caregivers and the people they care for.
So, in an effort to get her message out, she wrote a letter and posted it on Facebook. In the letter, Beth admits that there are hard parts about her job that others would find unappealing. But her job is really about dignity.
“Today I helped a man that has lived through the war wash and dress because old age has now hit him and he is unable to walk or do these things for himself because his body is ageing faster than his mind, but he is still so positive and always has a smile on his face,” she writes.
Beth talks about the heartbreak of helping people who, a very short time ago, were independent and now are facing a slow, insidious struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. While she can’t heal these people, she is proud to stand by them:
“Today I was a cleaner, a cook, a hand to hold, a friendly face, a washer, a dresser, a helper, a CARER; today I was human.”
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Beth knows that she earns less money than “someone who stacks shelves in a supermarket,” and finds that frustrating, but she’s unwilling to change jobs. “Because nothing beats the smile I put on someone’s face, the satisfaction you get from making a small difference to someone’s life, to help them live their lives as independently as they can, the feeling of purpose.”
That doesn’t mean it’s all smiles and hugs for Beth. She talks about going home and crying because of the things she can’t control and can’t cure. She shares about attending the funerals of people she’s connected with deeply and then lost—it’s like losing one of her family members.
“I am proud to be a carer and to work in this industry. So next time you think that that is all a being a Care worker means [helping a patient clean up after the bathroom] please think again. No I do not save lives, but I sure as hell make them easier for someone to live. To all you carers out there, I salute you,” she writes.
Beth’s message fell on listening ears. There are a lot of caregivers out there who needed her encouragement. Her post has been shared over 11,000 times and gotten over 3,000 comments. The comments are from people grateful to hear her words setting the record straight for caregivers. Here are just a few:
(Comments below have been edited for grammar).
“My mum has dementia and had carers in 4 times a day, those carers made my mum’s day a day worth waking up for, carers aren’t glorified arse wipers, they are people who help bring a little happiness to those who otherwise may give up, like nurses they are angels without wings.” From Lorraine Haworth
“I love my job wouldn’t change it for the world. The smile on the faces of the people I care for is a reward for all we do for them. Us carers need a little more respect for the job we do.” From Annette Halladay
“I am a community hospice specialist nurse and without carers such as yourself we would never manage to have so many success stories of people staying in their own homes for their final days/weeks [heart emoji] I see firsthand how damn hard you guys work and know full well you are as important to us nurses as we are to doctors. [wink and kiss emojis]” From Lizzy Aylott
Beth was so overwhelmed and surprised by all the comments that she later edited her post to thank all the people sharing and liking her message. She even encourages people thinking about a career in the caregiving industry.
We are so glad there are amazing caregivers out there, whether they care for the elderly, people with special needs, or a family member in their own home. It’s tough, often thankless work, and it’s important to be reminded how important it is. Thank you, caregivers!
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.