Becoming a caregiver at age 28 forced Brian Baez to reevaluate his time, priorities and make changes to his life. He says he’s grateful for the lessons he’s learned along the way.
A Loss for Words
Baez sensed something was wrong with his husband, Jason Campbell, when he missed two of his lines as the two performed in a matinee theater production in March 2014. Unsure what was happening, the cast covered for Campbell until he slumped over in a chair. Baez carried him off stage and called 9-1-1.
The ischemic stroke did little physical damage but left Campbell—a 34-year-old actor, director, and teacher at the time—struggling for words. While he is able to speak in short sentences and sign language, Baez says they mostly communicate through “20 Questions.”
No Time to Reflect
Although Baez had some experience with stroke survivors through his full-time job as an educational marketer at a skilled nursing facility, he wasn’t entirely prepared for what it meant to care for Campbell on a daily basis. He learned quickly how important a support system, like the one they had in the local theater community, was.
Even with their friends’ help, though, Baez didn’t have much time to process what had happened initially. He says, to an extent, he is still working through the emotions and coming to terms with the fact that he might never have a full conversation with his husband again.
In some ways, though, the stroke has been a blessing. Baez says it forced him to reevaluate his life, “whittle away the extra” and unimportant things, and focus on what really matters.
While others his age are chasing dream jobs and dream homes, he realizes that his life can have meaning without those things.
“In some weird, twisted way, I’m grateful to have learned these lessons at my age,” Baez says.
Helping Other Caregivers
As executive coordinator and caregiver liaison now at The Aphasia Center, Baez shares these tips with other caregivers:
- Don’t neglect your own health. Take care of yourself.
- Find a support system. Even just one or two people can make a difference.
- Take advantage of others’ offer to help. A friend taught Campbell to sign.
- Look for online caregiver forums for additional support.
- Accept that you will both get frustrated, especially when dealing with aphasia. Step back, take a moment, and then reconnect.