Big Girl Job
It was one of those Christmas parties where I didn’t know many people and my husband went to the bathroom and I felt a little lost. Somebody started polite conversation, “what do you do?”
“I’m a DSP at CCRI.”
“Sorry I don’t know what that is…”
“Oh it’s short for Direct Support Professional—I’m a caregiver.”
“Oh, so it’s a fancy way of saying you’re just a caregiver?”
I think the sensitivity to this was already in me from the times people have asked when I was going to get a “big girl job” or asked, “don’t you work mostly with people just out of high school?” But hearing “just a caregiver” felt unfair on so many levels.
This one is for the caregivers. Caregivers, my coworkers, are some of the best friends and people I have ever met. Yes, some are just out of high school, I am in my thirties and I have had fabulous coworkers in their 70s. I have been so lucky to get to know this diverse group of people and they need to know this…
You weren’t “just a caregiver” when I saw you lower yourself onto the floor next to your client during his range of motion exercises each time so he wouldn’t be alone, and so he’d forget his discomfort. He sang and laughed as you turned on all his favorite songs, transforming a dreaded activity into a fun routine.
The group of staff weren’t “just caregivers” when they carefully budgeted the November groceries and bought a gigantic turkey. Or when they used their own money to make the rest of a Thanksgiving feast for not just their own clients—but all the individuals who wouldn’t be spending the holiday with family.
You weren’t “just a caregiver” when you carefully built garden boxes at home to ensure each of your individuals could choose their seeds and watch their own gardens grow for the very first time.
You weren’t “just a caregiver” when you spent countless hours looking up healthy recipes, exercising alongside your client, and helping her achieve her weight loss and wellness goals.
You weren’t “just a caregiver” when you brought your client to the walk-in because you could just tell she wasn’t feeling well, only to find out she had a bladder infection.
You weren’t “just a caregiver” when you visited the individual you served in the hospital as she was nearing the end of her life, or when you held her hand while she was on hospice care. Through your extraordinary care you had become family and even then your face could still bring her the sweetest smile.
This is absolutely a “big girl” (or boy) job and a very important one at that. I am in awe of you and the gifts you bring to those you work with for the big and the little successes. I respect you just as much as if you were a doctor or a CEO. And whether you are just out of high school, in college, a “lifer”, or a “need-something-meaningful-to-do-in-retirement-er”… you were never “just a caregiver.” You are a dream-maker, a creative-thinker, a smile-bringer, and a life-changer.