According to the World Federation for Mental Health, “Caregiving affects us all. Regardless of culture or country, all people have been – currently are – or will need a caregiver during the course of their lifetime.” What is a caregiver? I prefer the Merriam-Webster English Learner Dictionary definition of “A person who gives help and protection to someone (such as a child, an old person, or someone who is sick)”. I was a caregiver for sixteen years for my aunt and my mom. Yet I never cared for either one in my home or theirs. This definition recognizes the essence of caregiving lies in the emotional and / or physical investment necessary to successfully advocate for their loved one(s) throughout their final years. If it was all about meeting the physical needs, the stereotypical nursing home model of the past with its residents aimlessly wandering the halls, rooms and halls filled with awful smells, poor food, and emphasis on the dollar in the pocket of the parent corporation would still be alive and well. Thankfully, that model is more and more a thing of the past.
I would further propose that a caregiver is a successful advocate for themselves as well. Not because I am self-centered, but because I realized that if I was six feet under I would not be much use to my loved one(s). How many of us know dead caregivers? How many of us know dead caregivers that are still an advocate? NONE.
At one point in my caregiving journey, I experienced thirteen (yes, 13!) major life events in eight (yes, 8!) months: my mother’s stroke, subsequent dementia, and almost ending in her death; my sister’s illness and death; my aunt’s decline and death; divorce; job loss; and new business start. I thrived by valuing my loved one(s), their lives, and their trust in me, but, most important, I thrived because I valued ME! I was not selfish; I was putting the oxygen on myself first to maintain myself in order to maintain them.
To answer the question, “Who Cares?”, I do as well as many of you reading this blog, including those working in the senior industry. I have met so many of you that I know there are great hearts out there doing what you do because you care. I have heard the phrase “Silver Tsunami” repeatedly, and often with great fear, because apparently some of us are not sure we are going to survive. To tell you the truth, I do not know how we are going to survive either. One thing I do know is that if we link arms, caring for ourselves, each other, and our loved ones together we can and will thrive on the journey as we complete the most fulfilling task in life – walking with another through the end of their life’s journey!
To read the complete article: Who Cares?