This month, we’re doing a series of posts on how a spectrum of caregiving issues are portrayed on our screens. This first post is from Eliza Brown, who’s part of our Caregiving Advice team.
Caregiving is such a complex aspect of life that to portray it in any entertainment medium is an enormous task requiring skill, professionalism, and understanding. A personal favorite TV show of mine, Parenthood, is a show about a family of six, all grown up with children and lives of their own.
The eldest son Adam has a son named Max, who is diagnosed with Asperger’s fairly early in the show. I haven’t seen many shows tackle the portrayal of Asperger’s in a main character, but watching Max’s character develop was incredibly intriguing and educational for me as a viewer.
I had the opportunity to see the parents’ initial reaction to hearing the diagnosis, as well as how they moved forward in telling extended family members and finding in-home assistance. What was truly an emotional lesson for me was seeing how small things became enormous in their life as parent caregivers.
I began watching this show right around the beginning of my own caregiving journey, and although autism and aging are extremely different, they have some very close similarities — such as this “molehills into mountains” way of adjusted living. In the show, Max will throw a tantrum with the slightest shift in plans: i.e., if he is asked to turn his favorite show off a few minutes early, or if his eggs aren’t cooked in the orange frying pan the way he likes.
Although tantrums aren’t an everyday occurrence as I care for my grandmother, planning for anything is.
While my grandmother stands up I need to be watching that her feet don’t slip; that her power-lift recliner is rising to just the right angle at the right pace so she can shift her weight without slipping; that the chair isn’t slipping as she is standing; that the rug has not been moved into her path; that the lights are on in every room she will be walking through; that I didn’t accidentally leave any laundry on the floor after changing her. I try to remember if there is a cushion in the next chair she will sit in so she is high enough to stand up, and if the towel in front of the leaky refrigerator is tucked underneath and not out where her walker could get caught.
Although tantrums aren’t an everyday occurrence as I care for my grandmother, planning for anything is.— Eliza Brown
Everything flashes through my head as I watch my grandmother’s wobbly attempt to stand. I imagine the parent of a child with autism or other special needs may feel the same way — anticipating and planning every action and reaction — every day.
It is our job as caregivers to worry — to think of every possible outcome of our loved one’s actions and problem solve at the speed of light. The perspectives in Parenthood allowed me to understand another version of caregiving — while also offering me a bit of solace in a way of life that can often feel so very isolating.
Your turn: What TV shows with a caregiving storyline have resonated with you? Tell us in the comments below.