do you care enough to be a caregiver?
I usually try to make the blog posts somewhat topical — whether in the news, or in my own life. So this week’s post is about caregiving, as my husband’s health has been on a dramatic decline over the past five years, which has put me into the role of caregiver on a continuing basis. It has put me into the role of Florence Nightingale with no formal training–only instinct, hope, and caring.
The name, Florence, has been synonymous to the world of caregiving for me as when my mother died I was just 13, and my Auntie Florence eagerly took my hand into womanhood. My close friends all know her as she was an important part of my life until she passed away at the age of 94. Her “joie du vivre” really influenced me as I was growing up and still guides me as I make my way into my own senior years.
It’s a real case of “what goes around comes around” as I ended up being Auntie Florence’s caregiver following the death of her two daughters, and we were always close throughout my entire life, helping each other in whatever way we could. It was a special bond as she was my aunt, godmother, and part-time caregiver in early life and my very dear, elderly friend in later life.
caregiving is an important role many of us will fill
Just what is a caregiver? It is much different than parenting. Parenting is (usually) a planned role for which we prepare and await with great anticipation.
Caregiving is (usually) not something we ask for and is rarely something we are overly enthusiastic about as it generally means that someone we care about is suffering in some way. Caregiving just happens upon us–out of necessity, love, or a combination of both. And with the life expectancy of Canadians on the rise, it is more and more likely that most of us in the baby boomer zone (aptly named Zoomers by publisher, Moses Znaimer) will have to assume the role of caregiver at some point in our lives as our parents, friends, and spouses age and need us more.
I was also caregiver for my father, who developed Alzheimer’s Disease at the age of 75. It was a difficult ride for both of us, but somehow … after the early years of his condition when he was bitter and defensive (something common to Alzheimer victims) … he mellowed, and we became closer than we had ever been. He lived until age 81.
Investors Group conducted a survey in 2009 of Canadians age 43-63 and found that 1/3 of them had at least one parent or parent-in-law for whom they were providing care in one form or another–meaning spending at least 42 hours per month assisting the parent in some way. About 40% of those surveyed were providing financial assistance to their parents.
And 40% of those surveyed also indicated that their parents’ demand on their time resulted in stress, with 1/3 of respondents saying their caregiving responsibilities resulted in lost time at work. I’m sure this scenario is familiar to many of you.
The survey reaffirmed my own situation in that 56% agreed that their relationships with their parents had improved as a result of the caregiving responsibilities or duties that had been bestowed upon them.
I guess we all like to feel needed, and if the person you are caring for shows appreciation and love as thanks for the effort you are putting in, we feel all the work and effort is not going unnoticed. And that is often thanks enough. A little gratitude goes a long way.
Like Dino Martino (Dean Martin) sang so long ago, “Everybody needs somebody sometime.” Something to remember, as no mater how rich, smart, or powerful you are … someday you may need help doing the simplest things. And with the assistance of someone who loves you, your difficult or vulnerable situation becomes easier to bear.
It’s good to know that you were able to get closer to your father who was suffering from Alzheimer’s when you became his caregiver. The same thought comes to my mind whenever I realize that my parents are getting older. Instead of hiring someone to take care of them, it might be a good idea if I can learn how to become a caregiver myself.
We should be a caregiver, as a brother, sister, son, daughter, husband-wife etc, because in older age when we are cathed by some disease all we want is care and love 🙂
May be just for my parents or relatives. But for others? Depends on the situation.
Receiving home health care helps to reduce unavoidable readmissions to the hospital, and studies have shown that patients recuperating from illness, injury, or surgical procedures heal more quickly and more successfully when recovering at home versus in a medical facility.
I salute all the caregivers for giving an unconditional love for their patients.
caregiver burnout recently posted…Hello world!
Wow, Peter! 2 parents with Alzheimer's Disease! That must have been quite a burden to bear. Thank goodness it is behind you now and you can move to happier times with more of a focus on you. Wishing you all the best, with some carefree years to enjoy the best life has to offer.
I've cared for both my parents with their battles with Alzheimer's. My mother was first from about 1995 until her death in 1999. My father was second from about 2003 on. He was placed in a nursing home in December, 2008. It was the most stressful experience in my entire life. I'm pleased to say that I've since regained my sanity and have the release papers to prove it. (smile) By the way is it normal to sleep unside down hanging from the rafters of my attic? If not I need more therapy. (smile)
Thanks for the comment, Margaret, and welcome to the blog!
Being a model at a gas station in Baltimore to being a caregiver! That's quite the transition!
I agree that caregiving is a tough role to fill. It requires skill, patience & understanding, the ability to anticipate the other's needs, and the ability to care for ourselves all wrapped up into one.
I've had a lot of jobs,(reporting, writing, teaching, being a model at a gas station in Baltimore) and I think caregiving is the toughest job there is. It is a necessary and important job, but undervalued in our society.
First I want to say how moved I was by Hilda's sharing of her story. My heart goes out to you.
My biggest role, next to wife and mother and all those other things, has been caregiver for my husband. In most situations we don't go into relationships thinking about our possible role as a caregiver but I knew from the day I met my husband that this would be my lot in life.
When I was younger – when we first met – I thought I could cure the world. It didn't happen and fighting it only wore me down but we keep going. He has had many surgeries and seems to be much better these days, but sometimes we are surprised by a new health issue and I go into my caregiver mode again.
I believe care giving is more draining on the person giving the care, because of all the worry we go through. And with the health care system as it is, we have to be strong advocates for those we're caring for. I have had to make numerous phone calls to track down the right doctor. I have had to yell at doctors until someone listened. And I have cried on my own when I couldn't take anymore but I couldn't let anyone else see how overwhelmed I was.
I think care giving is humbling and an important role in life. We do it because we love, and because we care. And because we care we give of ourselves.
Thanks for sharing this important topic, Doreen.
Roy in Matlock is a regular reader of this blog and would like to add this comment:
"I'll have to admit to not being a care-giver. I am absolutely supportive of my wife, who is a care-giver – i.e. making it known that I'm supportive. No complaining about the time taken from our relationship. Verbally acknowledging that I support it; doing second-level care-giving by 'being there' when my wife needs assistance emotionally as well as physically. But, hands-on, first line care-giving isn't where I prefer to be. Occasionally, when it's a supportive act I'll engage at that level but that's not often."
Wow, that was quite a wallop, Hilda. I do now remember the difficulties you had gone thru, but had forgotten how close together those 2 tragedies were. I hope the road since then has been smoother for you.
And yes, I certainly can relate to your comment, Christine, about hoping we have someone to care enough to give us loving care if and when we need it. Not having children or any nieces or nephews does cause some concern to me. Let's hope some good karma holds true.
I was a caregiver to both my mother and mother in law as both women out lived t heir husbands but were notable to look after themselves. For my mother it was initially a long distance relationship as she was in Ontario when we lived in Manitoba. We eventually moved her to Manitoba and I looked after her when she was in a seniors residence, hospital then nursing home. At about the same time our son developed manic depression so I was a caregiver for him at a different level. With my mother in law we moved her to Manitoba when her husband died, she lived with us for 6 months when she had dementia then was sent to a Personal care home as i had to deal with my son being admitted to the Psych ward with Manic depression.. Our sandwich generation ended when my mother in law died in 2005 September and my son committed suicide three weeks later.
I've been a caregiver many times, both with children and adults. With the children, I chose the situations in nursery schools and day care centres. I'm also a mom, and that was a beautiful choice, and wonderful situation (most of the time :}
With my mom and my aunt, it was a little different, but I was happy to have the chance to give back some of what I'd been given. It wasn't always easy as long travels were involved, as well as dealing with a lot of things to have to set up. I was not alone in this though, and having that support is crucial. I learned from the experience, and each situation. Maintaining my elders' dignity was the important thing I tried to do as I cared for them.
We can only hope that when it's our turn to be cared for, we are as co-operative as possible, and appreciative.