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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Hello, my name is Nadine Sallaj. I am a senior in college, studying to get my bachelor’s in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations, and working towards law school. I am treasurer of the law fraternity on campus and a very dedicated but very inconsistent writer for Her Campus. Some might say I am a loving and devoted daughter, sister, and friend, a contributing member of society, can’t forget the whole powerlifter thing, and oh yeah, I am also a full-time caregiver for my older sister.

I have to admit, this is weird to put on paper. I have thought to write about this a lot, or even make a TikTok account dedicated to showing “a day in my life as a sibling caregiver”, but I never followed through. 

I honestly am not sure where to begin, and maybe I will make this a series. All I know is that I will do my best to not leave out any *important* details but to respect the privacy of my family and most importantly, my sister. 

I am 21-years-old and Zena, who is my eldest sister, is 26-years-old. I have been her caregiver along with my mom my whole life. The title “caregiver” never became part of my vocabulary until this past year. I followed an influencer on Instagram, LivingwithLilac, and realized that Lilac’s sisters were also caregiver along with their mom, which made me realize that I am also a caregiver. 

What does it mean to be a caregiver? Well, the name speaks for itself, however, it means you take care of someone who needs you to fulfill their daily needs (this varies). Now, being a parent or guardian is not considered a caregiver (in my opinion). Let me rephrase, of course, they take care of their loved ones and children, however, being an actual caregiver is a bit different. Usually, a caregiver is associated with helping an individual that has special needs, is physically or mentally disabled, or has something a little less long-term like recovering from surgery or the flu. A caregiver does not have to be a family member either, being a caregiver means the person relies on you. All cases are different, some people are more dependent than others on their caregivers, and vice versa, but overall you get the point.

Zena is fully handicapped, she is wheelchair-bound, cannot walk or talk, and needs around-the-clock care, which is where my mom and I come in as her caregivers. It’s funny when I have a conversation with someone and I mention that I have to put my sister to bed or I have to change her. They immediately ask me how old she is, thinking I’m about to say a few months or years old, which would invite them to ask for pictures so they can drool over it and tell me how cute it is or something like that. But when I say that Zena is 26, the amount of shocked and concerned looks on peoples’ faces is priceless. After I *vaguely* explain why I am putting my 26-year-old sister to bed, the shocked and concerned reactions move to pity and sad ones. 

Why am I telling you this? Well, I think because the life of caregivers needs to be shared more. For the general public to know that yes, being a caregiver is stressful, but also we do have lives and we learn to live beyond the fact of just being a caregiver. Also, I know I’m starting to put my story out there, but I still cannot stand when people feel bad, or decide to put in their two cents, as if they can relate because they have children or whatever. I want to make clear that being a caregiver is very different than just being a parent to your children. My mom is Zena’s mom, yes, but she is also her caregiver. My mom is my mom but she is not my caregiver. The conditional child-parent relationship is that the child eventually moves on to create their own life for themselves (of course not always but I am talking in a very general sense), someone who needs a caregiver does not have the privilege of this (again not always but most of the time), so it is important to understand the difference and to be very cautious when making comments, but also to it’s okay to ask questions (**make sure they are questions that are appropriate enough to ask in an interview or some sort of semi-professional setting. Boundaries are important**). 

In the beginning, I mentioned all of the things that define me because it is important to remember that I am not just a caregiver. Although it is a very big, important, and time-consuming part of my life that I would not trade for anything, it is not the only thing that defines me. It is not the only thing that makes me interesting, however, being a sibling caregiver has taught me things that no college course, job, or any other real-life experience will teach me.

I guess this introduction didn’t involve any aspect of my daily life or go into any real detail, however, I think I might just make this a limited series of some sort. I am excited to write this all down and see what comes of it, it’s almost therapeutic. 

I hope I follow through with this.

Until next time,

Nadine

Nadine Sallaj

Buffalo '23

Political Science Major Philosophy Minor Junior, 2023
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