I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now, and I finally get to do it thanks to Rob Lowe. The Men In Blazers used to joke about the Rob Lowe commercials, I wish they were still on TV. But, about caregivers.
I’ll start with stories.
The idea of giving care for someone starts with Moms. No question, hands down, they give more care to the family than anyone, ever. So, huge thank you to Moms who never get any credit.
But really the first time I was REALLY exposed to actual caregiving was with my grandma Corbin. She couldn’t drive, just wanted to be with her kids and grandkids all the time and get to mass everyday. I was fortunate enough to be able to drive her on some days, but my mom and aunts did most of everything. I don’t think grandma would want me doing much more. As time went on I did less, and Grandma couldn’t walk much anymore. So I was indeed fortunate to spend that time with someone who loved me, unconditionally.
Then I got to see how Mel and her mother and sisters took care of her Grandma. Then how The Colonel and Mel and her sisters took care of her Mom.
Now I get to see how Mel takes care of me.
I am not trying to embarrass Mel, but being a caregiver is the hardest job. Let’s be completely honest, there is little reward on earth. Most caregivers aren’t rewarded by a growing, learning child. In my experience, the person being cared for will die, sooner than later, although my experience is very small. The caregivers aren’t usually asked how they are doing, but how the patient is doing. They aren’t the ones the doctor cares about, but they are at every appointment. They are the ones getting up in the middle of the night to help others, with little thought to themselves. And frankly, they can burn out. Just like a mom can need a nap or a weekend or something, so do caregivers. It doesn’t mean a mom doesn’t love her kids if she needs a break, and the same with caregivers.
I was oblivious to this until I read the story by Lady Williams, who was the primary caregiver to her husband after his near fatal crash left him a quadriplegic. She spoke about waking up in the night, of dropping him, of changing the house to accommodate hospital style equipment, and the never ending presence of someone else in the house, there to help, yes, but not allowing for family privacy. That the dreams and desires they planned were now done. The control she had over minor things was taken from her. Add that to having three children, and she burnt out after about two years. She had to have a break. Does that mean she didn’t love him, no, it meant that she couldn’t care for him anymore because she didn’t take care of herself. But when she realized it, the bond grew again. In fact, she stayed with him, supported his family business of car racing and was a driving force in the family and business. She was able to find things she could control and use them as a balancing force to prevent burnout. And she was able to ask for help for the things she needed.
So when it comes to my own Melanie, my caregiver, my lovely bride, I need to treat her with added love beyond that of a regular husband. The things I may want to do or give or say to her might not be what she needs. I have to be aware of this. And for all caregivers, we need to remember, they are people first. Let’s ask them how they are doing, first. Let’s invite them out before inviting the invalid, because it takes less work to get one person ready than two people. Let’s remember that to get the patient ready for visitors requires two people, and isn’t fast. But remember they are people. Let’s remember that they have a hard deal, but volunteer out of love. I saw that first hand with my family and Mel’s family.
I tell everyone I can how Mel has a harder road than me, and I believe all caregivers do, too. So remember to pray for them often, because in a very real way they are suffering for two people, themselves and their patient. Heck, I have it easy, comparatively.
And, because I am irreverent and can’t keep anything serious, a view of almost all the Rob Lowe commercials.