Tracey has emotionally cared for her father for thirteen years after the death of her mother, but in 2018 she became his medical caregiver after he suffered a stroke. The stroke did not result in any physical problems but severely impacted his ability to speak. Tracey acts as his interpreter in all aspects, from doctor’s appointments to handling bills, her main goal is to make him feel understood.
Tracey wears many hats – wife, mother, caregiver, student, worker, and many others. It can be difficult to juggle all the responsibilities that she has, and therefore deems time management as her biggest challenge. She prioritizes her time by figuring out what is most important day to day – no two days are ever the same. As a caregiver, Tracey enjoys the opportunity to grow her relationship with her father, despite his illnesses he makes the best of it, and knowing that she is caring for someone who enjoys her presence makes it easier. He is a jokester and is always being silly with her.
Tracey found Hope Grows as an undergraduate student at Chatham University and was accepted for an internship the summer after her junior year. Up to this point, Tracey was unaware that she was truly a caregiver and as she continued to speak with Hope Grows founder, Lisa Story, it really hit her. Tracey is now approaching three years with Hope Grows and is constantly learning. She finds so much value in interacting with other caregivers daily because there is so much knowledge passed from one caregiver to another. She describes Hope Grows to be an inclusive, safe place. Being a caregiver is a solitary role with a lot of responsibility, it can get very lonely and overwhelming. However, Hope Grows makes her feel as though she is not alone.
As an Intake Care Specialist, Tracey is able to participate in all of the Hope Grows programs. She enjoys the opportunity to approach each program from an employee perspective and as a caregiver. These programs are designed to help the participants through the core value of therapeutic support, with each having its own modality of support. Gardening, a day of respite, classes, videos, and more are all different adaptive things for different caregivers’ needs and lifestyles. The diversity that Hope Grows offers ensures that every caregiver can receive some form of support or respite. Connecting with caregivers and helping with the various programs has shown her how large the caregiving community is and reinforces the reminder that she is not alone.
Tracey’s outlook on caregiving from her experience is that it is hard work! It is not easy to drop everything and go to a doctor’s appointment or handle medications. It is hard to catch a break, which is why Tracey enjoys Fridays when she comes to work at Hope Grows. Even though it is work, her inner caregiver is excited to relax and enjoy the landscapes. She emphasizes not feeling guilty or as though you could do more because caregivers deserve breaks! Her advice to other caregivers is to recognize your other identities aside from being a caregiver and create space to be able to enjoy those identities. It doesn’t have to be one way or the other, you can compromise but enjoy the compromise. Regardless of what your caregiving situation is, Hope Grows has a program for you. The best part of Hope Grows is that everything is free and you do not have to be a Pennsylvania resident to enjoy our services.