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Caring for the Caregiver in Us

By Diem Pham, Founding Partner, ROAMcare


As the summer season is about to embrace us, I thought we could use a little mental break and reminisce together on summers past. 


Summer is vacation time. Summer is when we take time for ourselves, to refresh, to have fun, to get away, maybe to even act like a kid again! It is a time to nurture, renew, indulge, and tend to self-care so we can continue to effectively care for others. The bright warm days of summer, stretching into the late evenings bring nostalgic memories of childhood – cheerful thoughts quenched by a cold drink, happily devouring a melting ice cream cone, or delightfully savoring a piece of chilled, ripe watermelon. These remind me of days of my youth when caring for myself came more naturally, of my newest memories when caring for myself came with greater challenges, and of how a little self-care goes a long way to keeping me fit to care for others.


To my child self, each day of summer held respite from the routine boring school days and anticipation of new adventures to be discovered. I spent my youngest days chasing butterflies, digging for worms, or climbing trees in search of a plump plum. I recall family picnics, playing in the sand, and frolicking in the water. I spent my youngest days chasing butterflies, digging for worms, or climbing trees in search of a plump plum. I recall family picnics, playing in the sand, and frolicking in the water.


Last summer was unlike any other summer in our lifetime. Last year, frolicking in the water was close to impossible. Itching for a summer swim while pools remained closed, I bought a wetsuit and bravely ventured into chilly Lake Washington. The water was uncomfortably cold, dark and murky. I shivered, thinking to myself, “I must be out of my mind.” I submerged, letting myself be immersed in the water. First up to my waist, then my shoulders and finally my entire head. I no longer felt like a fish out of water. I relaxed to savor the buoyancy. My arms and legs moved effortlessly and freely being supported by the water. It was a refreshing adventure that awoke new senses for me. It not only indulged my craving to be in water, but offered a renewed perspective, a deeper appreciation for the precious opportunities of new experiences available to us, if we only open ourselves to the idea and try.


Think back to your memories. Can you create new ones for today based on your favorites from yesterday?

Answering my own question, I ventured to create and tend my very own vegetable garden. The idea was straightforward and simple. My neighbors all had one. I had a yard and I too could feed myself with good, wholesome, organic vegetables. I read, did my research and assessment, then evaluated my options and alternatives. The hardest decision was deciding to do it. My plan was elaborate. Once I started, I couldn’t back out, especially after hauling 2 yards of topsoil! It was physically excruciating to use a shovel and wheel-barrow to move that much dirt in just a few days. Seeing my progress, I persisted. I picked out my favorite vegetable seedlings, imagining the fun of harvesting peas, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, purple beans, onions and garlic, and a variety of greens. I tended to them daily, battled pests and pulled out weeds, and marveled at the miracle of their growth. Eventually I was rewarded with the abundant fruits of my labor, delightfully shared with family, friends and neighbors. Looking back, would I have created this garden had I known how intensive the labor would be? Probably not. The vegetables are readily available on the shelf at the nearby grocery store. No dirt to mess with.


What difficult challenges do you face by choice to reap a bountiful harvest of feelings of satisfaction?


These challenges are also present in healthcare. It is laborious and tedious to care for anyone, especially when they are not well and need extra attention and patience. Sometimes it is cold and chilly, uncomfortable and murky because we don’t know what’s wrong or the prognosis forecast is poor. Other times it seems easier to let someone else haul the burden and let the weeds run wild because we’re exhausted. Surely, those thoughts have crossed our minds and questioned our commitment.


As we continue through this pandemic, battle vaccine hesitancy, withstand natural disasters, and experience periods of uncomfortable societal growth, we must not forget to nurture ourselves so that we may continue to care for others. Remember the long nights of studying for exams as a student? The exhausting days of internships and residencies? We honed our knowledge and skills investing in ourselves to cultivate the tools we needed to put ourselves at service. Yet we still remembered among those stressful challenging times to find opportunities to connect with friends and family, to take a breath. Those times of recreation rested our bodies, nurtured our minds, and refreshed our focus.


Remember now too, to take time to be kind to yourself. Nurture yourself. Indulge yourself with self-care. We will all benefit from your renewed strength. When we see the faces of the lives that need us, our resolve refreshes to tend to them in their time of need. We bravely put on our wetsuits, pick up the shovel and haul the wheelbarrow to fight the battles with them, tending them with our expertise and compassion.


Summer is returning with all of its exuberance and joy. Enjoy the long, warm days and the excitement of putting a new twist on some favorite activities. Indulge in those summertime traditions and be surrounded by those that make life fulfilling.


Thank you for caring for yourself so that you can continue to be a giver of care for others.





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