My dear friend, Vivian, has been caring for her father for nearly fifteen years now. Recently her father had a tragic fall that left him with severe injuries. Vivian continues alongside her father in what may well be the remaining days of his life. As a good friend and fellow caregiver of my own mother, I want to support her but also feel the grip of fear that I may be in her shoes someday soon.
Unlike the days of my own grandmother, who died at the relatively young age of 56 from stroke complications, today more people are living longer and providing quality, affordable long-term care and support is one of our greatest public health issues. While we hear about seniors in their 80’s and 90’s thriving and enjoying a fully engaging and healthy life style, there are many whose quality of life is diminished by health problems. This is when and where the caregiver steps in often times struggling with some of the unpleasant emotions of caregiving, such as guilt, anger, resentment, or impatience. Very often, not knowing where to turn or who to talk to, the caregiver may give in to depression. Offering a persistent presence and being available to someone who is a caregiver may be the best gift we could offer. Remembering the caregiver on special holidays and offering a simple prayer can be very meaningful and may be just what is needed on days when things get a little tough.
Life for a family caregiver changes dramatically with the very first step and may never return to what may be considered an ordinary way of being. While life may certainly continue after the loss of a parent, sibling or spouse, having been a caregiver changes the person in the way they are now able to see and empathize with other caregivers.
The following prayer written by Wanda Flythe provides a beautiful way of supporting and empathizing with the caregiver:
A Prayer for My Fellow Caregiver
“You understand firsthand the difficult transition of having your caregiver role, your role in society, your role in your mother’s life, your role in your family changed suddenly and the painful confusing struggle of this change.
You know the fear that things are changing standing alongside the fear that things will never change or that things will change too quickly standing alongside the fear that things will change too slowly.
You, too, ache with the guilt of things not done standing alongside the guilt of things done or the guilt of things felt and thought and feared standing alongside the guilt of things decided and imposed and accepted.
You struggle with the pain of things that cannot be controlled standing alongside the pain of things that are being controlled by forces out of your control.
You experience living both sides of the coin simultaneously. Praying you will soon successfully come to terms with this ambivalence and find balance and peace in your heart, in your mind and in your life.”
But remember caregivers, "Be Kind to Yourself! You can do ANYTHING. . . but not EVERYTHING! Take advantage of the available resources such as assistance from your friends and the video trainings at mmLearn.org to help you with your caregiving needs.