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younger person standing chops vegetables while older person sits
by Jackie Zimmermann

Soo Jin became a caregiver unexpectedly when her sister-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia. After a single phone call, Soo Jin was on her way to her sister-in-law’s house to pack her things and welcome her into her home. When discussing caregiving, the focus is often on the hardships, and there are many challenging times. Still, in Soo Jin’s experience, like many others, there is so much reward. Relationships deepen, hope grows, and living in the present becomes necessary.

Finding joy

When life changes unexpectedly and quickly, it raises questions you may not have ever considered before. Existential topics become more real – which makes finding joy crucial. Soo Jin and her family found that focusing on the little things can be rewarding and make the existential fears manageable. . Along with noticing the little things and allowing them to bring joy comes hope. Think of hope as an action – something that we can practice and build. When going through challenges, hope is one of the most powerful mental health protective factors we can place in our lives.

Living in the moment

Soo Jin explains that there are so many new unknowns in her life, but being hopeful about what’s to come and living in the present is essential. Balancing it all can feel nearly impossible between caregiving responsibilities, work, relationships, and all of life’s other demands. Living in the present, moment to moment, is a way that Soo Jin has been able to function through the busyness of being a caregiver. She is more mindful and conscious about prioritizing and being present in each moment.

Strengthening relationships and asking for help

Caregiving can change relationship dynamics, and while this can be challenging, new types of relationships can allow you to bond in ways you haven’t before. Soo Jin has gained a sister, something new and fulfilling for her.  

Asking for help can be difficult for many individuals, especially in Asian American families. Soo Jin reflects that this cultural nuance is a challenge for her family. Becoming caregivers has required them to learn how to ask for help and receive it when needed. We can’t do it all, and we can’t do it alone. Caring for yourself as the caregiver is a must, and finding the balance between asking for help and supporting others is essential.

It can be hard as a caregiver to not become overwhelmed and let the sadness and stress take over. But with this new role can come new perspectives. You might find joy, fulfillment, and hope like you have never known.

Jackie Zimmermann is the manager of public education partnerships and e-learning at Mental Health America.