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5 Reasons Caretakers Are Everyday Heroes

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Laura Ling, host of Prudential’s "Everyday Bravery" podcast, spent her career as a hard-charging journalist, chasing scoops and perfection. The daughter of Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants, she put on a brave face, rose through the ranks and even spent six months detained in North Korea. But when she started to care for her elderly father, she learned that bravery doesn't have to be about traveling to unknown places or performing adrenaline-inducing stunts. It can be about handling everyday situations with thought, care, and consideration. These everyday situations might not be glamorous, but they are as, if not more, vital and impressive.

This is a lesson Emily Meyers from The Freckled Fox learned as well. Idaho-based mother of six lost her husband to an aggressive form of cancer in 2016. Before he passed away, Meyers spent her days taking care of him and her family. She bravely approached each day, making an effort to cherish her final moments with her husband and staying strong for her children. Below, Ling and Meyers share five ways that caretakers are the brave, everyday heroes the world needs now and in the future.

man helping an elderly woman on a walk

1. Adjusting to a new normal

Caretaking means adjusting to new circumstances and challenges. For Ling, it began when she returned from North Korea and saw a "glassy look" in her dad's eyes. "It just crushed me," she says. "He had changed. And it broke my heart." It required bravery to transition from the role of being her father's daughter to being one of his caregivers. Meyers experienced a similar transition. "With my husband, that was difficult to acknowledge that I was going to have to become the nagging mother," she says. "But those arguments are going to happen when you're going to ask them to take something they don't want to take or do something they don't want to do. You're looking out for their best interest. That was a hard pill to swallow."

hands holding a walker

2. Finding Balance

Both Ling and Meyers had to take care of their own family while tending to an ailing loved one. Finding balance takes bravery because you have to make hard choices. For Meyers, she came to think of her husband Martin as one of the kids. She needed to give him up to 23 medications a day while keeping track of her children. "I would go through each [person] and go with the most immediate need," she says.

woman and doctor sitting on a couch

3. Giving

It takes bravery to put the needs of others first. Giving yourself, giving time, giving thought, energy, and consideration to reflect and be the best person you can is a special thing. It can be scary and intimidating, but doing so is important and brave.

holding hands

4. Taking care of yourself

Even an everyday hero needs to relax and recharge. Meyers didn't do this when she was in her care-taking role, saying "I had to come last," but she recommends that caregivers do take time for themselves. "My metaphor has been that you can't pour from an empty glass," she says. "If you put your needs last, you won't have anything to give because you'll be so empty."

woman and her caregiver smiling

5. Letting go

Finally, it's important and brave to be okay with letting go of feelings of guilt and perfectionism. You can’t do it all, and that’s okay. "There's no perfect system," Meyers says. "The beauty is in the journey, the mess, and learning every day from the mistakes." Ling agrees: "If there's anything I have to be brave about, it's accepting that I don't have to be the perfect daughter. I can do what I can and Dad will be fine with that." Both Meyers and Ling realized that sometimes doing something well rather than trying to do everything perfectly is truly heroic.

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