Caring for the caregiver

Behind the closed doors, scenes we rarely get to witness play out in homes, in our town and across the world. Wives are caring for husbands, husbands care for wives, adult children care for a parent — bathing, dressing, feeding, assisting with bathroom visits, managing medications, dealing with medical providers, every night and every day.

Thanks to advances in medical care, nutrition, exercise, and reduction in such bad habits as smoking, we are living longer, and so we grow older than our parents and grandparents did. But our longer lives deliver to us inescapable deterioration, both physical and mental. Aging can be a mixed blessing.

As a result, that dear person we married in the bloom of youth, in sickness and in health, now is forced to care for us in ways both necessary and sometimes humiliating. This is how we continue to show our love. It can be exhausting, physically and emotionally.

Many of us swap our fatigue with financial burden and feelings of guilt as we place our beloved spouse or parent in a facility where professionals will provide the care that has been wearing us out.

In a Zoom meeting of personal caregivers in our church congregation, a member recently tearfully related her experience of placing her husband in such a facility. She expressed continuing uncertainty over this decision and spoke of considering bringing him back home again. Those with experience in such matters advise against this. Caring for him at home has exhausted her, but she is plagued with guilt.

We didn’t sign up for this in our optimistic youthful years, but this is how love works.

One of our church members regularly singled out caregivers during congregational prayers, back when we were safely worshiping together in the same place before Covid-19 changed that. A cancer survivor, he wished to express his appreciation for the compassionate care he had received from both health professionals and family and friends who love him.

Caregiving can be hard work, physically and emotionally exhausting, and most weren’t trained for it. Let’s search for caregivers and do all we can to make their lives easier. Let’s care for the caregivers.

 

 

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