Millions of us are called upon at some time to care for another we care about. While the ages, diseases, and prognosis of those being cared for are different, the responsibility and burden is a common link. Caregiving stress and strain is experienced if you are taking care of someone who just had a serious surgery, someone with a disability, or someone dying. It’s a matter of degree.
Caregiver Roles Without Training
No one is quite prepared to be a caregiver. A new parent learns as they go, so does a caregiver. However, unlike a parent caregivers often have no time to prepare. Learning to do things that doctors and nurses get many years of training for, caregivers “just figure out”. I remember assessing pain and providing reports to physicians who had to make decisions based on what I thought. I kept track of numerous pills that were the same color and size. The pills had names that no normal person can pronounce and didn’t match the writing on the bottle. It was my responsibility to keep my husband safe from falls, sharp objects, and worse his own poor decision-making.
The personal emotion involved in these activities gets buried to focus on the tasks at hand. Perhaps it is good that there is little time and energy to comprehend that the man you spent a lifetime making love to is now unable to wipe his own bottom. Worse is that the father who raised you and changed your diaper, is now needing you to change him or helping him bathe. If this goes on for a few weeks it is exhausting but, when it goes on for months or years, it can become debilitating.
Rosalyn Carter once said that there are four types of caregivers; those who are caregiving, those who have been caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers. Caregiving eventually impacts each of us. Even fame and fortune does not take away the burdens of caregiving. Last week an article in USA Today actor Rob Lowe shared his families caregiving journey for his mother.
Rob Lowe points out that when you are caring for someone there is nothing you won’t do to ease the patient’s burden. Killing your diet, going without sleep, and sacrificing your career are all common sacrifices. Depression, sleeplessness, weight loss or weight gain and more are outcomes of being the “good wife”, “good son”, or “good daughter”.
Advice from Rob Lowe
Mr. Lowe and his family have simple advice for all these challenges. Caregivers must take care of themselves and be at their best to care for another. They must ask for help and realize there are resources available. Online support groups, health care provider’s, other family members are all important resources. Caregivers need someone to share their experience, and the rest of us need to be willing listeners. Finally, he discusses the importance of being present. As overwhelming as it is, remembering that there will come a time it is over is important.
Rewards of Caregiving
Speaking from personal experience, as hard as caring for my husband was, there is nothing I am more thankful to have done. The stress and pain is also offset with the love and intimacy we shared. And there is nothing I have done which I am prouder of, no greater gift I could have given him, and I know he was very thankful for every moment. It was an honor.