The actor explains how his personal caregiving experience taught him the importance of self care.
Posted in , Feb 7, 2019
Rob Lowe made a name for himself as a heartthrob actor in the 1980s, starring in movies like The Outsiders and St. Elmo’s Fire. More recently he’s been known for his roles on West Wing and the hit sitcom Parks & Recreation.
But in his 30s, Lowe took on an unexpected role: caregiver.
When his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Lowe and his brothers became her primary caregivers. Life became a blur of medical paperwork, doctor’s appointments and starring on a television show. Lowe found himself stressed, overwhelmed and on the verge of burning out.
“What I’ve learned along the way is that many caregivers don’t feel supported,” Lowe wrote for USA Today. “They don’t know where to turn for help, and they often suffer stress-related health problems of their own, yet the last thing on their minds is their own well-being. The irony is that to effectively care for someone else, we caregivers must first remember to take care of ourselves.”
Lowe knew that he was in a particularly lucky situation—he wasn’t in it alone and had the financial resources to care for his mother and afford assistance. He realized if caregiving was a stressful situation for him, it must be much worse for those without his resources.
Statistics back up Lowe’s hunch. According to the Family Caregiving Alliance, approximately 43.5 million Americans provided unpaid care in a one year time period. On average, family caregivers spent about 24 hours providing care each week.
Lowe’s mother passed away in 2003. He continues to work as an advocate for breast cancer research and tries to help caregivers however he can. He partnered with EMD Serono and EmbracingCarers.com to provide support for caretakers, and shared his story in hopes of raising awareness of the challenges caregivers face.
His best pieces of advice? Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be open about caregiving difficulties.
“Talk about the challenges of caregiving with your family, friends and co-workers. The more aware we are of the realities of caregiving, the more actions we can take to improve the experience for everyone,” Lowe said.
Looking back, Lowe says caring for his mother was one of the most difficult, but ultimately rewarding, experiences of his life.
“Taking care of my mother was scary, unbelievably stressful and painful. It was also a time to be with her in a way that might never have happened under other circumstances,” Lowe wrote in Newsweek. “One of the hidden gifts of being a caregiver is that you’re with them. You’re able to do and say all of those things in its proper time.”