“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”—Rabindranath Tagore
The above quote summarizes how I felt when caring for my dear loved one during his illness.
So, imagine how I felt when reading the following comments posted to my Caregivers Hub Support Group:
“Will we EVER get to spend time with anyone besides this old man? I’m thinking I will die before my 94-year-old father does. I need out of this! I have nothing left.”
“I’m in the same situation. I’m 74 and mother if 98. That generation is tough, and was not exposed to all the chemicals that our generation were, after World War II. And today’s world is much more stressful than theirs was. Let’s just say it… I hope my loved one dies before me, and soon!”
“I am a caregiver to my mom. I’m dying. I have to get her out of bed, put her in the rollator, wheel her to the bathroom, lift her up, set her on the toilet, lift her again, wheel her to bed, and put her in bed.
“ALL NIGHT LONG!
“I get no sleep, and my back is killing me.
“Our house is a wreck because I can’t stand or bend long enough to clean it.
“I have to magically discern what she’ll eat and persuade her into drinking.
“I’m exhausted. Energy? What’s that?”
Dear reader, Are you a family caregiver?
If you are presently caring for an ill loved one, how does reading these comments make you feel?
At a minimum, you feel sorry or sad for the caregiver.
You perhaps feel disheartened to know that some caregivers do not think it a privilege to do the work—to have satisfaction knowing that they are performing a service to someone in need.
What Is Service?
The dictionary meaning of the word service: is “the action of serving; an act of assistance.”—Oxford English Dictionary
In this article, I’m not writing about any kind of compulsory service or business service (banking, insurance, transportation, etc.), but a “joyful” service where the heart is full of love.
The kind of service you would provide to someone you care about would mean offering “assistance and support”—it would mean “helping” someone get through the difficulties of their day.
Religious people often speak of their “sacred” service or work directly related to their worship of God.
What Is Sacrifice?
When you read Priscilla, Jenny, and Catharine’s comments above, do you get the sense that these women find joy and satisfaction in their role as caregivers?
Not at all.
I believe that family-caregiving women would feel less “put upon” if they viewed their role in caring for a sick loved one as a sacrifice worth making.
“Sacrifice is defined as forgoing immediate self-interest and incurring costs to self—either by giving up something desirable, such as time or money, or by doing something undesirable in order to benefit others.”
One significant benefit of self-sacrifice: is greater happiness.
By no means am I suggesting that you neglect yourself.
You must maintain your well-being to help others.
The Role of the Family Caregiver
Family caregivers (also referred to as “carers”) can be spouses, children, siblings, friends, and even neighbors.
I was a full-time, 24/7 caregiver to my dear husband for over three years, including three months in hospice at home.
I had no formal training.
However, I was fortunate to have the support of my son, daughter, grandchildren, and friends.
And during the final days of my husband’s life, I had outstanding support from the Hospice services.
My principal duties?
- Personal care (bathing, feeding, toileting, etc.)
- Meal planning and preparation
- Medication management
- Mobility assistance (to prevent falls)
- Provide transportation (to and from doctor’s office, hospitals, therapy, etc)
- Ensure care plan was up to date (who could step during an emergency)
- Offering companionship, having patience, showing kindness and respect, and of course, showing love
Caregiving is a selfless act, but the skills I developed while caring for my husband directly impacted his quality of life during his final days.
Fortunately, I had the strength and stamina to carry out my duties (along with help from family and friends) without hiring professional service.
Not all family caregivers have the energy and emotional temperament to provide their loved ones the personal care and support needed.
I felt blessed.
Keep Love Alive!
“One word frees us of all weight and pain in life—that word is love.”—Sophocles
No question, if you “act the love” in caring for your loved one, you will find more joy.
But how can you continue to show love when burdened with numerous tasks and responsibilities?
You feel overwhelmed!
Perhaps you aren’t getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, or making necessary trips to the doctor to maintain your health.
You’ve placed everything related to your well-being on the back burner.
You feel stressed and crushed!
Perhaps you can relate to this quote by Patti Davis:
“It’s one thing to show your love for someone when everything is going fine and life is smooth. But when the ‘in sickness and in health’ part kicks in and sickness does enter our lives, you’re tested. Your resilience is tested.”
And possibly your love is tested.
One wife described caregivers as “the most overwhelmed group of people—ever.”
In searching the Web, I found the following list of attributes you can ask about your loved one, which can help you love and appreciate your partner in illness—to keep love alive:
- Was he funny?
- Was he kind toward you and others?
- Was he a good provider?
- Was he a friend, a confidant?
- Was he understanding?
- Was he supportive of your dreams and aspirations?
- Was he respectful?
- Was he respected?
- Was he forgiving?
- Was he trustworthy?
- Was he quick to apologize when he was wrong?
- Was he generous of spirit?
- Could he keep secrets?
- Did he show empathy?
- Was he quiet or outgoing?
Is It Worth It?
Love is costly.
- It takes patience
- It involves patience in putting up with others who may rub us the wrong way.
- It often means personal inconvenience
- It requires freely forgiving one another.
- It means being compassionate and kind.
Caregiving is hard work!
But do try to keep love alive, which in turn guarantees that you will find joy.
Do whatever you can to not resent caring for your loved one because they might be able to sense it.
Invest the time and effort to keep peace with the family by loving.
You’ll be amazed at the results.
“Act” the love and find immeasurable joy.
And here’s an idea: join a caregiver’s support group. Many groups are online if you can’t leave the house to attend a live meeting.
You will benefit in the following ways:
- You will feel less lonely and isolated.
- You will improve your ability to provide quality care.
- You will share experiences and get practical advice.
- You will gain a sense of control.
- You will better understand what to expect as your loved one’s illness progresses.
But whatever you do, please do not despair. Do not give up on showing loving-kindness every day.
Yes, caregiving means service.
Caregiving means sacrifice.
But love, the strongest of all positive emotions, will ensure you Find Pure Joy in Your Family Caregiving Duties!
Choose to act the love!
Chillis, R. (2019) A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions. Golden Pen LLC.