Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What it means to be a family caregiver

A few days ago someone said to me, “My mom is in an assisted living community so I guess I’m not really a caregiver.”

As we talked, the person shared how he visited several times each week; how he interacted with staff on his mom’s behalf; how he took her to doctors’ appointments and other needs.

It didn’t take long to realize that he was, in fact, a caregiver.

This morning I read a story written by a daughter that made me feel incredibly sad. The daughter shared how she was never treated by her mom as a valued daughter and was always compared to her brother, the perfect child.

Now, with her mom elderly, falling, losing her ability to think, remember and reason, she was turning on this daughter who was investing hours of her day, every single day, to helping care for her mom. This daughter was feeling more angry, resentful and hurt with every passing day. She believes her mother’s behavior is intentional and is designed to hurt her – and she’s losing the quality of her own life quickly, as the result.

This daughter is a caregiver, too. She’s a caregiver in desperate need of better understanding of the aging process her mother is experiencing, however. The harder she tries to make her mother happy, the more defeated she feels.

I want to tell this daughter that what she is experiencing is the disease her mother has – not a personal attack. The memory loss, probably related to Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, is causing her behavior. It may be making what has been a lifelong pattern even more pronounced. It is certainly causing both the mother and the daughter much anguish and distress.

Family caregivers, whether hands’ on or indirect, whether close or across the country, are an invaluable part of the caregiving network in our country.

If we can give them support and the training they need to make it a joyful experience rather than a gut-wrenching experience we’ll be doing exactly what we need to do.

Caregiver Training Resources

Caregiver Christmas gift ideas

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