Camrus Johnson shares how caring full-time for his great aunt at age 18 made him more selfless, built his character, and changed his life forever.
When Camrus Johnson’s great aunt asked him not to put her in a nursing home after battling meningitis, he didn’t think twice before he agreed to become her caregiver at age 18. “I was in New York because of her, and she only ever asked me to do this one thing. So I did it,” he said.
The actor, known for “The Sun Is Also a Star” and “Batwoman,” is one of the estimated 43.5 million people who has provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance.
“Being a caretaker has impacted my life in every way,” Johnson said. The infection that plagued Johnson’s aunt caused inflammation in the membrane around her brain and spinal cord. It led her to lose her memory for a few days and “be confused for the rest of her life,” he said.
At first, Johnson was able to help his aunt realize she was hallucinating and check back into reality. “Then the first few months were over, and things weren’t so easy,” he said, explaining his aunt began hallucinating during the day.
Building true character
In fact, while trying to get his acting career off the ground in New York, Johnson became his aunt’s full-time caregiver for three years, with some assistance from his aunt’s best friend. He helped her eat, use the bathroom, bathe, and walk, and he took her to her doctor’s appointments. When Johnson had to leave her alone, the anxiety he felt was the hardest part of it all. But as difficult as it was, he says being a caregiver made him who he is today.
“It taught me to be more patient and understanding, especially concerning the elderly. It taught me the responsibilities of being a parent, having another living being look up to you and need you to survive and keep as happy as possible.” Further, “It taught me the importance of fully putting others’ needs ahead of your own,” he continued. “It even taught me that life is short, and everything can change in the blink of an eye, so to really, really enjoy the little things and cherish the smallest wins.”
Changed for life
Johnson said he often felt alone in his plight, but he wants other young caregivers to know that that’s not the case. They are not alone, and they, too, may be changed for the better from their caregiving experiences.
“It’s a scary decision to be someone’s caretaker, but you’re already doing it, aren’t you? That makes you strong and that makes you brave,” he said. “You’re already doing it, so you can keep doing it, and I’m proud of you for putting someone else’s needs before your own.”