When you’re little and looked after by mum or dad, it’s impossible to imagine what it will be like when the time comes when those roles are reversed.
Anyone who takes care of an elderly or sick parent will know just how heartbreaking it is and also how relentless life is juggling their to-do list alongside your own.
Despite all the goodwill in the world, the reality is caregiving is an exhausting and thankless task that leaves the caregiver feeling frazzled, overwhelmed and often extremely lonely.
This is exactly what happened to Elizabeth Miller, who selflessly became her parents’ caregiver before spiralling towards her own mental health crisis.
Feeling stuck and desperate for help, Elizabeth noticed that despite the abundance of books on offer to prepare for parenthood, there were none to help prepare her to be a caregiver.
So, she began curating tips and tricks, putting a website together herself instead.
Today, that site has blossomed into The Happy Healthy Caregiver community, bringing people together in their anxiety, frustration and sadness so they feel less alone while caregiving.
We were lucky enough to catch-up with Elizabeth and find out a little more about what she offers and why she left her corporate job to run her side project full-time.
Elizabeth said: “I created The Happy Healthy Caregiver because I craved a supportive community like this when my caregiver responsibilities took on a whole new level after my dad passed away in 2014 and we had no choice but to move my chronically-ill mum.
“I was stressed, overwhelmed, and often felt suffocated by my never-ending to-do lists.”
She continued: “Our health care system is fragmented in the US. I received lots of pamphlets about how I could better manage mum’s diabetes and care for her, but I never received any materials that would help me cope with my role and crazy sandwich generation world.”
Sadly, the sandwich generation isn’t as fun as it sounds, referring to middle-aged adults, often in their 40s and 50s, who are caring for both elderly parents and their own children.
This meant Elizabeth was beyond stretched, looking after her kids too, pogoing from house to house to try and make sure that everyone was literally alive and being fed.
Elizabeth said: “During the early stages of my time as a caregiver, I felt so overwhelmed and isolated, like I was the only person in the world going through this.
“Thankfully, I have my siblings and a couple friends with similar experiences, but for the most part, it was hard for people to understand my life.”
Being a caregiver proved to be a steep learning curve for Elizabeth, and she discovered how difficult it was to take care of her own health and happiness while caring for her mum and dad.
She explained: “We just give, give, give to others, but not to ourselves.
“That’s why I felt the need to create a site where caregivers can connect and remind each other that it’s okay to take care of yourself too.”
In addition to this, Elizabeth shares small, healthy habits that caregivers can start trying the minute they have finished reading, and she also hosts a podcast.
With an estimated 349million caregivers worldwide, 53m of which are in Elizabeth’s native America, it is clear people are crying out for this information.
Elizabeth is under no illusion that igniting a conversation will change statistics or undo a diagnosis, instead she believes people can do hard things, they just don’t need to do them alone.
She concluded: “No caregiver can predict how long their journey of taking care of a loved one is going to be. Your role could last for six months or 10 years. You can’t let your health go until things get less stressful, because you may end up being a caregiver for a really long time.
“I’ve learned that if you make your health a priority, you become less resentful as a caregiver. You bring more joy to everything you do and feel more confident in the decisions you make.”
What a hero!
For caregiving tips and tricks, click here: The Happy Healthy Caregiver.