The late Dana Reeve was a pioneer for caregiving. As the wife of Christopher Reeve, Dana brought the issues of caregiving and advocating for caregivers to the forefront as she learned to navigate a life which included caring for someone with a spinal cord injury. Just three years after her husband’s injury, Dana sat down with Gary Barg for an interview to share her experiences and lessons gained as both a caregiver and an advocate.
Dana became a caregiver when her husband suffered a C1/C2 spinal cord injury after a horse riding accident. At the time, Dana and Christopher’s son Will was just three years old. Dana believes that parents should be honest and open with their children when it comes to talking about a parent’s disability. Will began to understand his father’s accident when Dana and Will engaged in play re-enactment, followed by subsequent explanation. Dana stresses that honesty can guide children when they face difficult circumstances.
“I think if they feel safe, then you’re giving them the best possible tool any parent would give a child: to be able to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties."
Dana admits to viewing life from a different perspective following Christopher’s accident – a side of life “that is entering into a world where you can see the gift behind disability.” She recognizes the heightened strength and bond in relationships, and the ability to find joy and appreciation in the littlest of things.
Taking care of yourself as a caregiver
Emotional relief is necessary for caregivers to recharge themselves, and one way to deal with stress as a caregiver is to find time for yourself, or give yourself “mini respites,” as Dana calls them. They can be anything from reading a book to taking a bubble bath to yoga to little getaways.
Dana also recognizes the importance of support and advice from other caregivers, from exchanging tips to sharing stories and experiences. Much of the useful information she has received was contributed by other caregivers. Dana is also excited for the future of the caregiving community, as caregiving is slowly gaining acknowledgment and support from the society.
“As caregivers we’re working primarily out of a feeling of love and obligation toward the person for whom we care. It’s just part of our life.”
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