A Mama's Boy Speaks From the Heart About Caregiving

It's been a long time since I really thanked my mom for all she's done raising me and caring for my grandmother, but I finally did by sending her this video. You can send to a personalized version to your beloved caregivers by going to the Give A Care website.

You see, a few years back my grandmother, "Mama Fela," moved into the house where my mom and I were living in the Bronx. She was suffering from Alzheimer's and was going to need constant care as her condition began to deteriorate. My mom was the person best prepared of Mama Fela's kids to take on the task, and ultimately the only other choice was ending up in a nursing home. We weren't going to let that happen.

My life changed a lot when my grandma moved in. I was reluctant at first to jump into being a caregiver -- I was a teenager at the time and had lots of other priorities in my life. Eventually I realized just how important it was to be there for my grandma. She had helped raise me, after all, and now it was time to give back, to be there for her during her time of need. Maybe I felt a certain responsibility, but mostly it was about love.

The changes I faced when Mama Fela moved in were nothing compared to the way it affected my mom. Sure, I did as much as I could to help out with the tasks of daily living -- getting food for my grandma moving her around the house, bathing, etc -- but most of the chores fell to my mom, who also had a part-time job. It blows me away the sacrifices she has made. She doesn't have much of a social life any more. It's all about work and caregiving.

My mom raised me (and did a pretty fantastic job, I might add.) Now she's devoting herself to caring for her own mother and grappling with the profound, everyday challenges of someone living with Alzheimer's. My mother is a superstar caregiver. But amazingly, her role as a caregiver is rarely acknowledged. Certainly not by our society, which tends to ignore or downplay the hard work of caregiving.

Acknowledgement starts with saying "thanks," with showing gratitude. Through the "Give A Care" campaign, people can send a personalized video to a caregiver who has made an impact in their life. It's one small way to begin changing the way our country sees caregiving. Someday, I hope, not only will there be an acknowledgement that people like my mom play an essential role in our society, but there will policies that actually support those devote themselves to caregiving.

Watch the Give A Care video: