Sanary is a Cambodian American who moved with her family to the United States at a young age as a refugee. As the daughter in a refugee family, she feels she has filled the role of caregiver all her life, starting by acting as the English translator and interpreter for her parents. She helped care for her brother, who had cancer, when she was young, and now, she acts as the care coordinator and financial head for her parents, who are aging. She anticipates that soon she will be much more hands on in their day-to-day care.
A challenge Sanary experiences in her caregiving role is the joint decision-making process. Sometimes she and her parents don’t always see eye-to-eye on what is best for their health, causing frustration. This can also be hard because Sanary acts as the language go-between for her parents, translating their conversations with their doctors. She has found she’s had to set boundaries, because culturally it’s expected that she do whatever her parents ask of her. However, Sanary wants to continue to care for her parents because of everything they’ve done in their lives and for her—from surviving the war to moving to America. She cannot imagine putting them in a facility and having them live out their days not surrounded by family.
Sanary wants others to understand that just because she wants to and is willing to be a caregiver for her parents, she shouldn’t be expected to shoulder everything. Employers need to realize that time off is needed for taking care of loved ones, including elders. Caregivers need financial support in order to continue caring and living their own lives. She believes strongly that policymakers need to start listening to caregivers’ personal stories in order to understand the nuances of their needs and to connect with them on a human level. Sanary believes these stories, and the nitty-gritty details they tell, will provide those who can help with a better understanding of the caregiving role.