I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart. Pope John XXIII
This Friday I will be presenting on Caregiving at SunServe’s Silver Serve Luncheon. I’ve taken most of what I have written below from previous blog post on ‘The Purple Jacket’. Your feedback is always welcomed!
The Foundation: The Honor Of Caregiving
To be entrusted with the care of another human being is one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed on you. Caregiving takes on meaning that is beyond reproach. New parents have nine months to prepare for the responsibility of bringing a child into the world. Doctors and nurses undergo years of rigorous training for the work that they do. But Caregivers can find themselves thrust suddenly into roles, roles that they often do not choose, when called to care for a spouse, partner or loved one after a diagnosis or accident.
At a moment’s notice you become a Caregiver, without any warning, with any training, without any time to think things through. You feel like you have no idea of what you are supposed to do, so you do your best as you follow your instincts and common sense. You embrace the new reality…You simply care for the one you love.
When you become a Caregiver for your spouse, partner, significant other, a new and uncharted realm opens up. Two distinct relationships must now be blended into one. The familiar partner from the past remains and is always present. But now there is someone different on the scene – someone with a significant illness.
Suddenly, two people sharing a life together will face challenges that cannot be left unattended? A whole set of new and intense emotions are likely to intrude on the relationship. Worry, detachment, mortality, anger, fear of abandonment and having to live life alone, begin to intertwine with the idiosyncrasies of your personal dynamics. These gut wrenching emotions can lurk in a caregiver’s mind when faced with a life-and-relationship-altering illness with your life partner.
Caregiving is an intense experience that asks you to surrender yourself to the needs of someone else. Often times, you have to give up things that you love, in order to care for the one you love. Even though it might feel like a hardship, you make the choice, you make the choice because you know that it is what love and commitment is all about. Yet it is not that simple, because Caregiving can be an emotional, physical, and interpersonal roller coaster that is both tremendously rewarding and frustrating. These emotions can surely test even the best communication and trust in a relationship.
The common denominator when blending a life partnership with Caregiving is communication.
Successful relationships are built on strong communication and trust. It is through honest communication that the true essence of a life partnership is revealed. This does not change when you add the role of Caregiver to the mix. Communication has to be the focal point for conveying the wants and needs of the one who is ill. This must be accomplished without losing one individuality, the life partnership, or the role of the Caregiver. The term “delicate balance” takes on a whole new meaning
Frequent review and maintenance of clarity in your roles becomes crucial so that our judgment and decision-making skills are based on sound facts instead of raw emotions. How much can the mind and body take when faced with so many changes in such period of time? I think that really depends on the couple’s ability to safely, clearly and honestly communicate their wants, needs and desires as indicated by the partners health needs first and the relationship second.
While I have no doubt that caring for your life partner will strengthen a relationship, Caregiving will change a relationship too! It is not uncommon to see someone who has been firmly independent, become dependent in certain areas of life that have been difficult for them to accept. Stepping outside one’s comfort zone and asking for assistance with mundane everyday chores adds stress to both parties…That is undeniable!
Caregivers often become the voice for the one who is ill. As Caregivers, we have to be mindful that we are in a supporting role. First and foremost, Caregivers are advocates. In our role as an advocate, we must remember that what we may want for our loved one may not necessarily be what the love on wants. What a slippery slope this becomes when caring for your life partner!
Life’s journeys are not often driven on smooth roads, but we can always hope for a gentle wind at our back. This gentle wind is always fortified by love, trust, commitment and communication.
…My your hills be always be slight and with a gentle wind at your back.
The Purple Jacket©