Today is National Caregivers Day in the United States. Every year, it is observed on the third Friday in February. It is a day to recognize caregivers and their impact on the lives of disabled and elderly Americans.
Since birth, I have required hands-on care due to Cerebral Palsy. It isn’t easy to need help with dressing, showering, and toileting. I’ve never known any different. Growing up, my parents were my primary caregivers. They would assist me with getting dressed, toileting, and other things.
I also had a paraprofessional at school. I was fortunate to have the same paraprofessional for a decade. Students rarely have the same paraprofessional for that long. I was comforted by her presence while at school. Years later, we still keep in touch.
Around the age of eight, I began receiving PCA services through Medicaid. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have privacy in the shower or when using the restroom. Hiring strangers to help shower and get dressed is awkward and uncomfortable. Over the years, I’ve had many wonderful PCAs and a few who weren’t a good fit for the job.
While needing PCAs can be difficult, they allow me to live life to the fullest. I wouldn’t have the same quality of life without my PCAs. In August 2020, I moved out of my parent’s home. My live in PCA helped make this a reality. Every day, he helps me get dressed, prepares my meals, and helps me with exercises that help reduce spasticity, and make movement easier.
Being a PCA can be a difficult job at times. However, the majority of my PCAs have cared about me. I’ve known some of them for years now. My PCAs know me very well. My live-in PCA knows my favorite foods and what I like to watch on TV.
My PCAs allow me to grocery shop, go to doctor’s appointments, and enjoy activities in my community. My PCA takes me to the movie theater, restaurants, and family gatherings. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we don’t go out much. In the future, I hope to enjoy more activities in my community. Without the support of my PCAs, I would be unable to leave my home.
Living with Cerebral Palsy is hard at times. Needing help with activities of daily living isn’t easy, but it’s just a part of my life. I am forever grateful to every caregiver I’ve ever had. Life would be very different if I didn’t have the support of my family and PCAs.
Riles, Dustin, and Emily Rolen. “Making a Career of Caring for Others.” U.S. Department of Labor Blog, U.S. Department of Labor, 15 Feb. 2023, http://blog.dol.gov/2023/02/15/making-a-career-of-caring-for-others.