Giving Care

Right now, my husband is on a six-week journey. This past Monday, he had surgery for his rotator cuff muscle. We are just completing week one.

Naturally, I have a few thoughts ……

When we get married, we sign up for the usual ‘for better or worse.’ And rarely do we give thought to what that really means. Until the day arrives.

Caregiving is a thankless job, period. You do it because you love the other person, full stop. Your feelings are definitely part of your equation, and yet they have no place in the caregiving equation.

Caregiving means adapting to another person’s timetable, idiosyncrasies, and preferences. I learned this the hard way when I cared for my mother for her last seven years, and I learned it again this past week.

Those of us thrust into the caregiver role will often assume the mantle of the martyr. Whether it is publicly proclaimed or not, boy, do we love feeding our egos with martyr moments. And seriously, who can blame us?

It’s not like the person we are caring for sees us in all our glory. In fact, NO ONE sees us in our glory. That is one of the best reasons for donning the martyr mantle.

The one being cared for, fussed over and handled rarely learns the art of receiving. You know. The one where they are ever so grateful, willing, and in the right frame of mind to be told what to do, what’s in their best interests, and what and how they should do something.

Truthfully, I don’t think ANYONE ever learns this art of receiving.

That’s why there are always emotional flare-ups. One side doesn’t quite know how to send out the right messages, actions, and vibes, and the other side has no idea how to be gracious and receive (or rather just shut up and submit).

I remember one day, I was particularly irritated with my mother, and she with me. Naturally, I had to have the last word. So I said, rather sarcastically, “Listen, Mom. Neither you nor I have ever been in this situation before. It is entirely new to both of us. The only way we are going to get through it is to remember that the other person is trying to do their best. And to cut each other some slack. Especially when we think the other person effed up.”

Perhaps not the most elegant way to phrase it, but effective nonetheless. I used the same line on my husband this week. Again, it was not particularly elegant, yet stupefyingly true and with the same effect. We both took a step back, recognized the truth in it, and immediately calmed down.

I am certainly no expert on providing care to an adult, yet here is what I have learned.

-Nobody likes having anyone to ‘DO’ things for them. We’d all much prefer to continue to be independent even when we struggle to do so.

-Pain distorts our view of literally everything. Pain is something we fear — living with AND dying with. NOBODY enjoys Pain.

– We are always rational human beings. Pain causes us to act irrationally. This is a subtle way of reframing and changing our perspective. For the most part, caregivers deal with the result of Pain, not a change in someone’s personality.

We, the caregiver, have the power to –

  • Make their day better, easier, and smoother.
  • Make our own day better, easier, and smoother.
  • Change their perspective
  • Change our perspective

It’s not about getting recognition for being a decent human. It’s about giving recognition to a fellow human being who needs assistance, no matter in what form, for how long, or why. And no, I am not advocating for a lifetime of caregiving. We ALL need help, even the caregivers.

When we do it because we want to or step up to do so, we agree to take on everything that comes with the job. For better or worse.