Caregiving and Football

Yesterday I was watching the Super Bowl and at some point in the game I was struck by the similarities between football and caregiving. Now don’t think I’ve lost my mind. I was rooting for the Patriots, but it wasn’t their day. It was evident if you watched the game that Eli Manning, quarterback for the Giants, had a much stronger team supporting him during the Super Bowl. This is not to say that Tom Brady didn’t have an outstanding team, only that on Sunday, February 5, 2012, he didn’t get the kind of support he needed. I watched him dodging tackles and doing everything to avoid getting sacked. It’s hard to lead the team when you are running for your life. It’s hard to keep your wits about you. Tom Brady is very skilled at keeping his wits about him, but even he has challenging days and this year’s Superbowl was one of those days.

Caregiving and football are similar. When you are caregiver, you are the leader of the team. The success or failure of this journey rests on your shoulders; and it’s a heavy responsibility. Your team consists of the person needing care, doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers, family members, outside forces, a home to keep in tact, prescription medicine, dietary needs, organization, insurance claims, and any surprises that might present themselves to you along the way. It’s a very complicated team and it doesn’t always operate as a unified force; in fact usually, it doesn’t. So imagine what happens when someone tries to do caregiving ALONE – with no team in place; with no family support; with no outside help; without communicating with doctors; without asking for help. Imagine what that is like. I’m betting most people reading this can very well imagine, because most people have never set up a TEAM!

Here’s the thing: it’s not easy to get a good team in place; let alone a great team. It takes time, energy, persistence, clarity, a willingness to lead and an ability to bend and change as needed. It requires you to not take “no” for an answer. It requires you to say “I love you” when you are the most frustrated. It demands that you hold up in the face of adversity. It calls upon you when you think you have nothing left, but you find out you do. It requires that you be the ultimate leader.

Setting up your support team when you are a caregiver will save your health, your emotional strength and your physical stamina. It will save your life. I know, because I tried to do caregiving alone and I almost lost my life. And then I put a team in place and I worked with my team and I trusted that my team would be there for me and in effect, I won the Super Bowl… my Super Bowl, but we won. We all won. Our season lasted for six years, 365 days a year, 24/7 care and we didn’t have an off season. We showed up and we played every day. We showed up and we did our best every day. We showed up because we worked cooperatively as a team. We didn’t have to be perfect; we just had to show up and do our best. And when our season ended we knew that we had played our hearts out; given it our all; gave the best we had to give to someone who needed our help and we felt like winners in our own Super Bowl of caregiving.

Caregiving is easier when you have a TEAM and yes, caregiving IS a lot like football.