The Truth About Caregiving
I have been a caregiver most of my adult life, both professionally and personally. Not only am I the mother of two adult children, I worked in health care as a nurse for over 20 years. On December 6, 2008, I had a massive hemorrhagic stroke. After that fateful day, I was no longer the caregiver. Suddenly, I was the one needing care. I am now functionally independent in most areas of my life, but I occasionally do need help with tasks.
Immediately after my stroke, I was critically ill. I needed help meeting my most basic needs: nutrition, breathing and mobility. As I improved, I could do more for myself but still needed some assistance. My husband, Michael, suddenly took on the role of my caregiver. It was difficult for me to acknowledge and surrender to the need for care. I would often fight the care I needed; denying that I needed help — sometimes to my own detriment.
I am presently nine years post-stroke, and I still struggle with depending on others. But over the years, as Michael has cared for me, we have discovered an intimacy that comes from being a caregiver to someone you love. And being the recipient of the care. This is not the life we envisioned when we started our journey, almost 30 years ago, and we have made many mistakes. But we have also learned there are gifts.
My friend Maria, who is a caregiver to her son, describes caregiving in this way. I think her words are powerful and accurately describe the delicate balance between loving someone who you care for and the hard work caregiving can be.
“Caregiving is demanding. It is draining. There are no breaks. It is no easier for the person who needs the constant care. There is no allowance for privacy, no chance to step away, no independence. But there are moments of profound tenderness and closeness that are greater than the closeness most people share. There is a trust like no other, an acceptance, and there are times of quietly surrendering to the moment. These are the gifts no one asked for. Treasure them like gold.”