Maybe you are reading this and you are like me. You have become a Caregiver. It was not asked for. It was not sought but it evolved as part of your marriage or family commitment. My wife Rita contracted Parkinson’s almost seven years ago and gradually the role of Caregiver has inevitably fallen to me. She needs assistance in every area of life now and naturally I am the one to give that help.
I think the greatest aspect of learning has been that of patience. I realize that my wife never asked to be like she is. She dislikes being as she is. In fact the progression of the illness is quite depressing for her. She would prefer to be independent as she once was. I always try to keep in mind that it is not her fault she requires constant help.
One learns that time is not of the essence. My wife says “hurry is not in her vocabulary anymore!” and one accepts that as now being part of regular life and plans accordingly. Mishaps and mistakes happen regularly but we make light of those and laugh. Humor is essential. It eliminates much frustration.
I have become more domesticated out of necessity. Gone are the days when my cooking offerings may have been a fried or boiled egg! How long can one live on that? I used to hear it said, “A woman’s work is never done!” I readily identify with that sentiment now. Has it really taken me 53 years of married life to realize that? I don’t think so but the present situation has certainly brought it to the foreground.
Another aspect is that what was once very important for us has become less so while things that were taken for granted have become valued. Spending time together doing the things which can be done is crucial. Who would ever have thought that my interest in jigsaw puzzles would have developed as it has? Getting out and about is also essential even if it is only to the local coffee shop.
One could moan and groan about life not being fair but what would that achieve? It would not change anything. It only creates dissatisfaction and an attitude of self-pity. Life is as it is. We only have one life so we make the most of it. We enjoy it to the fullest extent. We make memories, good memories, for ourselves and those we love.
It is probably good that we do not know what is around the corner of life. When we said “I do” or as in England “I will” we made a commitment which included being there “in sickness and in health.” Caregiving is all part of that commitment.
So my fellow Caregivers. Keep working, keep helping, keep loving and be encouraged. Even if it is not always expressed, your efforts are deeply appreciated. You are important because you play an important role. At this moment you are indispensable. You are the pillar which provides critical support. One day you will have a sense of comfort and satisfaction in the knowledge that you did what you could, you did your best. That is all that can be expected of you.