After a decade of caring for my mother who had Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, then brought her into our home the last 2+ years of her life, this is the distilled version of what caregiving taught me. I am profoundly grateful for these lessons.
- To stand up for myself, and caregiving will give me plenty of opportunities to do so.
- There is a time in life in which you sacrifice for someone you love–and a time to stop sacrificing.
- It takes humor to tackle the big scary things in life, like caregiving, disease, and death.
- Caregiving will inevitably bring out the worst–and the best in me.
- Caregiving will change me, but it’s up to me to determine how.
- I can’t stop death.
- I can decide how I will live the next moment of my life. One moment at a time.
- My emotions are my body’s barometers. I need to listen to these cues, feel them, use them as a catalyst, but know that no one emotion will last forever.
- To pace myself. Burnout is very real and very dangerous.
- I can’t meet all the needs of another human being. I can’t take the place of my care partner’s spouse, career, friends, or health.
- Caregiving is about integrity. I have to choose what is right–for me–and for all the others in my life. No one person gets to be the “only one “
- When I start to give too much to caregiving, it means I’m avoiding some aspect of my own life’s journey.
- Caregiving isn’t just about caregiving. It unearths every emotional weak spot I have–not to destroy me–but to give me a chance to look at, and even heal that area.
- I have to stop being nice and pleasing people. “They” will never be satisfied or think it’s enough. What’s best for me–truly, deeply best–is best for those around me.
- Learning to stand up to relatives, authority figures, to my parent or spouse, and even a disease teaches me to be brave, a quality we need.
- Give up perfect. Go for decent. Do more of what I’m good at–and ask for help on the rest.
- Don’t isolate myself. Being alone, depressed, and negative is easy. Fighting to stay in the game of life–that’s tough, but worth it.
- If or when my care partner needs more care than I can provide, or even dies, that doesn’t mean I’ve failed. It means I’ve done all I could and it’s time for change.
- You will go the distance. You will live at hospitals, stay up night after night, weep in the deepest part of your soul, question everything you’re doing…and barely come out alive. Caregiving asks, takes this from you. Through this process, you will transform. You will see who you are–the whole of you. You will survive.
- Choose to care-give–then do with heart and guts.
To love makes us brave. To be loved gives us courage.
–Lao Tzo, Chinese Philosopher