“There are four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers; those who currently are caregivers; those who will be caregivers; and those who will need caregivers.”
~Former First Lady, Rosalynn Carter
THE CYCLE OF LIFE
There was a time when families lived together; if not in the same house, then in the same town or village. If a family member got sick or injured, they usually died at home surrounded by family and friends, and their body stayed in the house until their funeral.Familial caregiving was a given: grandma and grandpa helped to care for the children and run the household, and lived in the family home until they breathed their last breath – the whole family was involved in their care and children grew up witnessing the entire cycle of life.
These days family members often scatter to wherever jobs, school, weather, cost of living, or whims take them. That, combined with modern medicine, longer life spans, and retirement living options, have made caring for our loved ones, and their inevitable death, something we rarely think about until someone becomes very ill or can no longer do everything for themselves. It can be quite a shock to suddenly find that someone you always thought of as invincible is now depending on you for their very survival.
THE INEVITABILITY OF CAREGIVING
When we’re young we think we’ll never get sick or old. But it happens – sometimes suddenly, and sometimes so slowly we don’t even notice, until we realize that more and more of our conversations are about aches, pains, injuries, eyesight, indigestion, and illness. All around us the people in our lives are aging noticeably, getting sick, and even dying. Our parents are getting frail or have passed on, and we all know at least one person in our life who’s been diagnosed with some kind of cancer or other serious disease. Male or female; spouse; partner; sibling; son or daughter, if you aren’t a caregiver now, chances are you’ll be one before long. And that’s why we’re here at Don’t Lose Heart: to support you and encourage you with our own experiences, and to share lessons we learned along the way.
If this is your first time caring for a loved one, it can be daunting and scary. But you can do this. All that’s needed to be a good caregiver is the desire to help and give comfort. The rest you’ll learn, one day at a time. Unfortunately, “Caregiving 101″ isn’t taught in schools, even though it’s a natural and long-practiced part of life. If your loved one’s condition becomes too much for you to handle on your own, we’ll be here to support you while you’re finding a care facility and during the difficult adjustments that may follow.
This blog is for caregivers:
- Past caregivers who are trying to recover from their ordeal and/or loss
- Present caregivers who are currently caring for an ailing loved one
- Future caregivers, who are seeing the signs and realizing that soon they will have to do some serious decision-making.
THE EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL TOLLS OF CAREGIVING
Caregiving is both scary and rewarding. Scary, because you never know from day to day what will be required of you. Caring for another person is a big responsibility. You want to do everything right; your worst fear is that you’ll make a mistake and add to their pain. Rewarding, because there’s nothing like the feeling you get when you’ve been able to ease a loved one’s pain. Having them smile at you and say “I feel so much better!” is an incredibly joyful experience.
The stress of caregiving can take a terrible emotional and physical toll on the caregiver. Depression, heart disease, hypertension, and Type II Diabetes are just a few of the many conditions common among primary caregivers. These conditions can be life threatening if left unchecked. We want to make sure you’re aware of the hazards, the precautions, and the options open to you. We hope you’ll take the time to read some of the information and caregiver stories here.
WE’RE HERE FOR YOU
Sometimes just knowing that others have experienced the same nightmares, doubts, fears, and “selfish” thoughts and resentments can lighten the load a bit. Use the comment boxes at the bottom of each page to let us know what you’re going through. Before long you’ll have an answering comment from compassionate people who want only to encourage and comfort you, and when appropriate, to offer the wisdom of their own experience. We hope you’ll feel at home and learn from our mistakes, and that you’ll realize you aren’t alone in what you’re experiencing. And we hope you’ll come away feeling lighter and more sure of yourself in your role as a caregiver.
Be well, and don’t lose heart.
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