When I was a kid, one of my favorite roller coasters was the Zephyr at the old Pontchartrain Beach amusement park in New Orléans. Those steep curves and big drops were exhilarating, especially when the car made the turn to come back to the station ― when for a moment you thought that you were going to fly into Lake Pontchartrain only to feel the car make that big pull to the left at the last second and head back to home base. They do not make Roller Coasters like that anymore!
Being a caregiver at times is like riding a roller coaster: up the hill, down the hill, swaying through the curves that Caregiving brings to us on a daily basis. I know I must have ridden the Zephyr over a 100 times in my life, so I knew what to expect and could anticipate the bumps and curves as the car sped down the track.
Caregiving can change at a moment’s notice and… without any warning. When your anxiety heightens, that is precisely the time when you have to be calm in the presence of your caree. All of a sudden, those steep curves look ominous; those hills become daunting.
- When your caree lashes out at you, take a step back and assess the situation; more times than not, it is the disease talking, not the caree.
- Be attentive, not condescending.
- Be proactive, not reactive.
- As a caregiver, remember you are not the one who is sick.
‘The Little One’ taught me this lesson as he related stories of being a caregiver for his partner Herman who passed away in 1999 from Alzheimer’s. “As mad as I would get with Herman, I had to remind myself that it was the disease talking and not the man who I had known for 43 years.” Over the last 48 hours, I have been reminded of this story quite a number of times as we are currently in the mist of change with ‘The Little One’s’ health. We never know when the tumor is going to act up, but when it does, it takes its toll. We are hoping that ‘this roller coaster’ gets back on track and pulls into the station .
When riding the Zephyr I could anticipate the bumps and curves on the track, and I knew that I would always end up back at the station; however our health and well-being is not so predictable. So when those bad days surface, we both take comfort in knowing that it is the disease, not the person. Mindful that the person you love and care for, will always be inside your heart no matter what is inside their body.
You see…We Might Have Cancer…
But Cancer Does Not Have Us!