Caring for an aging person is filled with joy and sadness, fulfilling moments, and high stress. It is a complex jigsaw puzzle of wanting to do the right thing and resenting the exhaustion it causes. Being a caregiver can be isolating and lonely. It can remove the caregiver from normal daily life and create a feeling of being in an orbit that no one else understands. Conflicting emotions can take a heavy toll. When an adult child is caring for a parent, the child must become the parent while still relating to the parent as a child. It is fertile territory for physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion.
When it comes right down to it, there are only three things that will stand by a caregiver every day:
When all else fails, laugh.
Really, just laugh. Caring for an elderly loved one has good days, bad days, and many mundane days in between. The same meals will be cooked, the same questions answered repeatedly, and the same problems encountered every day. Only laughter will help the situation, because it isn’t going to change. The caregiver is needed and is a critical component of the elderly person’s life. The key to surviving the experience is to use laughter every day.
Live only in the present moment.
Livin in the present moment is one of the three most important learnings that come from being a caregiver. When a loved one can’t remember the caregiver’s name or how to put on a shirt, the only thing left is to look in their eyes and experience a smile with him or her in that very moment. It is an important learning, and a gift that only caregivers can receive. Normal life peels away; there is no yesterday or tomorrow, there is only right now. And that moment holds enormous power in experiencing the joys of caregiving.
Understand one’s humanity.
We are all human beings! However, when one becomes a caregiver, it is extremely important to remember that human beings are not perfect. We each have our own frailties. That means that some days success will be not losing your temper, and some days success will be that the person in your care had a great day. Every day the bar for success will be different; let it be so. Be gentle and kind with yourself and remember your own humanity. As a caregiver, you have to give yourself the gift of grace, or you will have a difficult time coming out of the experience whole.
As a caregiver, you have taken on what might be the most important role of your life. You are bringing joy to a human being who once was strong and productive. You are caring for and supporting that person so that they may maintain their dignity; a high calling indeed.