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Caregiving, like motherhood, has given me my most meaningful opportunity to experience and give testimony to the bounty of love that's exchanged when we care for, value and literally hold another's persons life in our hands as it were our own. How faith feeds our spirit with solace and resolve to push forward despite fear, despite not knowing, nor having control over what's happening from day to day. Caregiving is also knowing care includes respect for preference just as much as it means caring for the safety, hygiene and health of your loved ones.
My mother developed surgical complications extending her hospitalization by three months, then four weeks into her hospitalization, my husband unexpectantly fell into a coma. My life plunged into so much I did not know, wasn't prepared for, so much that had to done and so many decisions to make. It was a fast learning curve and was not easy. But through the journey, caregiving has enriched my understanding of what it truly means to step out of myself, lean-in with all my heart, and be at peace and accept the changes in my loved ones and circumstances of our lives.
2. Challenges and Rewards
The biggest challenge I've experienced is learning to let go and embrace the emotional responses that inevitably arise. Even though, I literally am responsible for decisions that affect both my mother and husband's quality of care and life, there's so many forces that are totally out of my control.
The vulnerability and the loss of independence that comes with prolonged illness throws a person off balance physically, emotionally, spiritually, often changing their behavior and attitudes. Understanding these changes, knowing when it's safe to step back and give space can be frustrating and daunting.
With challenges, comes rewards. I've cultivated a greater awareness of how to acknowledge, appreciate, and enjoy every day. I've learned to be patient, more patient and even more patient, and be an even better listener. But my absolute greatest reward is knowing I have my husband and my mother's unwavering trust that I treasure the quality of their lives with all my heart.
3. Advice to Caregiver
Do what you can. Help where you can. Love as much as you're able. Know you are not perfect, accept your humanness. You will make mistakes. You will feel overwhelmed, lonely, confused, even angry. When this happens forgive yourself. Exhale. Find constructive ways to express what you're feeling. Ask and accept help. Keep contact with family and friends. Know your caregiving does make a difference in your loved ones' lives. Ultimately, it also enriches your psyche and spirit.
This article was submitted by Dr. Renee M. Poole, Target II Women’s Healthcare and Wellness committee chair