While Tyler Wood may not like being in the spotlight and does not consider himself a leader, the way that he cares for his family and for others (and even for himself), shines a much different light. Leaders are oftentimes not specifically chosen for the role, rather it finds them, and they either sink or swim. Family Caregiver Tyler Wood has chosen to swim in all of the uncharted waters and realizes that not only is life (especially life as a caregiver), a triathlon, but it is also a team sport. In sharing his journey, he hopes to “lift others up and support, and hopefully help them out by sharing my story; giving them tips and tricks that I use” as a caregiver.
Tyler is husband to his beautiful wife, Mylinda, and they recently celebrated their 23rd anniversary. He is also father to three boys; ages 17, 13, and 10. Their 10 year-old son has special needs and is living with Down Syndrome. Tyler also works full-time at a wonderfully supportive architectural firm, and enjoys smoking and curing meats, and making knives – both as hobbies and side businesses. Tyler is also the family caregiver to Mylinda who was diagnosed with ALS in 2018.
November 2020 is National Family Caregiver Month, and the theme for this year’s focused and intentional appreciation and dedication to family caregivers around the nation is Caregiving Around the Clock. If you ask Tyler about the 24/7, 365 days a year commitment of a family caregiver, he sums it up perfectly:
“It’s about trimming the fat, really, and figuring out what’s important stuff…but with self-care, you have to make sure that you’re not trimming all of your stuff out. You have to give yourself time, and that’s part of the care of your spouse – is caring for yourself. Because when you take care of them, you give out of yourself, and it’s a bucket of water. Every time you pour out of yourself a little bit, there’s less in that bucket. When that bucket is dry, you’re not going to be of use to yourself or your spouse. It’s every minute of every day, because you’re not just caring for your spouse in that daily care, you’re caring for yourself so you can continue to care for your spouse.”
You can’t punch a clock to the end the day when you are a family caregiver, and it can be hard on the caregiver physically. However, Tyler would challenge that the “mental is the most strenuous, tiring aspect of the entire thing. If you’re not taking the time to rest your emotions and your mind, you’re not gonna make it. You’re just simply not.”
Tyler readily shares that the ALS Association of Texas has been helpful in providing equipment as needs arise. He adds that he is thankful that in two years, Mylinda has progressed slowly, and they have not needed much of that just yet. However, what has been most helpful to Tyler and Mylinda are the information and contacts, especially in the Lubbock and West Texas area where resources are more limited.
“Through ALS Texas, we were also able to receive information about clinics throughout the state, and get tied into those, as well as connect with other people in the area who are struggling with ALS.”
Information is especially critical in navigating the day to day challenges and often-times new normals that are part of the overall ALS experience. Tyler’s biggest struggle as a male caregiver? “Thinking like a woman. You have to somewhat get in a woman’s head as a male caregiver and that’s dang near impossible for us guys! It’s the mental game that you have to play with yourself. As men, we don’t think about that stuff, but the ladies, they still want to look pretty; they still want to feel pretty. Feeling pretty for a woman is huge.” And the biggest challenge within this? Sharing in his genuine approach that always contains some humor and laughter, Tyler quickly offers, “I do not like touching feet.”
He adds with a more serious tone, “clipping her toenails, painting her toes…you know doing all that stuff. You really start to think about what attracted you to your spouse. It’s almost like you gotta think about being the opposite sex, and what they think is important and make that important to yourself as well. When you take the time and make her feel pretty, it’s amazing the glow that comes out of her, and the more zeal for life she has, despite the situation she’s in.”
In his last words of encouragement and support for all family caregivers, Tyler adds, “Hug your spouse. No matter what you’re going through, they’re going through it worse. Hug them, love them, show them compassion.”
Watch Tyler’s full interview below.