Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Celebrate Family Caregiving

Here are two things you need to know: First, this is National Family Caregiver’s Month and second, if you’re not a caregiver now, you’ve either been a caregiver in the past or will likely become one in the future.

My conclusion? We should all celebrate this month together, since we’re all in this together.

You might think, “What’s to celebrate about caregiving? Isn’t that just an awful task?”

Here’s what family caregivers tell me, over and over again: “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was also, in the end, the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done.”

Mind you, most family caregivers don’t feel this way while they’re in the middle of caregiving. Those family caregivers typically identify more with feelings of exhaustion, frustration, stress and anxiety. They worry continually about their loved one falling, being left alone, needing more care, and – when they get a minute – about meeting all the other needs of their family, immediate and extended.

Sometimes, it’s not until the caregiving task is over and the caregiver gets some distance (and perspective – and rest) that they can look back and see what a rich, meaningful experience it was to care for a loved one.

Vicki says, “I got to know my father-in-law in a way that was so special. He and I became very close – it was a tremendous gift to me.”

Mary says, “I treasure every single minute I spent with my dad.”

Lorraine says, “I was my mother’s caregiver because she was my mom. It was an honor and a privilege to care for her.”

All three women remember how hard caregiving was. But all three women feel that their lives are richer because of their caregiving work.

This month, I celebrate Vicki, Mary, Lorraine and all the other family caregivers – past, present and future.

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