For me, caregiving began with an elderly neighbor who needed some assistance. This "assistance" turned into a five-year stint of elder care, closely followed by the ever increasing needs of six of my own family members. For all but one of my elders – my dad whose failed brain surgery sent him into severe dementia – care needs gradually increased.
I can clearly remember the day when I finally woke up to the fact that I had a full-time job as a caregiver, even though, technically, I wasn't "working" at the time. Had I had more family caregivers to communicate with, I may have realized earlier how much my caregiver role had slowly overtaken my life.
Would the knowledge have helped me understand that I needed to take better care of myself? I don't know. Hindsight is interesting, but doesn't change the past. My caregiving years started at a time when family caregiving wasn't big news. You just did what you did, and there wasn't a great deal of support – official or casual.