Ten Things I Learned From Caregiving
Not being a rainbow and pink unicorn kind of gal, I have to applaud the honesty of Ann Brenoff’s recent piece on HuffPost entitled, “No, Caregiving is Not Rewarding. It Simply Sucks.” There isn’t a caregiver alive who can’t identify with that kind of bone-deep exhaustion, anger, and frustration.
Let’s face it, if given a choice, we’d rather the people we love remain healthy and vital forever, making this role unnecessary. But, that’s not how it happens, which brings me to the point of writing this piece.
As a family caregiver and working daughter, juggling the demands of a father with dementia and a mother with breast cancer and heart disease, there were often days I questioned my sanity, and ability to keep on. I fantasized about getting my real life back, then instantly felt guilty knowing what that would mean. I was doing too much. I wasn’t doing enough. Compassion fatigue, fractured family dynamics, and issues with paid caregivers often stressed me to the max, and every ring of my cell phone triggered a fight or flight response.
Yeah, a lot of it did suck, but there were also moments of clarity, purpose, and deep connection that might never have happened without the accompanying angst.
This is what I know, for sure.
1. I believe in kindness, but don’t mess with me when my parent’s well-being is at stake.
2. Digesting large amounts of medical information quickly? No problem. Hospital food? That’s another story.
3. Forgive the woo-woo, but part of my purpose for being here was to care for my folks.
4. Not really a crier, the kindness of a stranger can still disarm me, every time.
5. After six years as my parent’s healthcare advocate, there isn’t much that intimidates me.
6. At the end, our deepest conversations can have little to do with words.
7. Just being with my folks was sometimes more important than doing for them.
8. Whether giving or receiving care, we all have a deep need to be understood and appreciated.
9. Laughter and tears can both be ways of dealing with loss.
10. You can ultimately see caregiving as a gift, and still want to return it now and then.
Now you know mine. How about sharing a few of your own caregiving truths.
And by the way, the bird’s nest in this post is a treasured batik, created by my mom, Sally, many years ago.