It takes a special kind of courage to walk the caregiver’s road, and there is no shame in feeling fear. Whether you accept or deny it, the fact that you move forward with every day’s responsibilities in spite of your fear, quietly demonstrates your enormous courage. Your courage helps you improve the lives of those you care for.
It takes a special kind of courage to stand in caregiver’s shoes. Once you’ve worn them, you need never again doubt your ability to take on a challenge and succeed, or fear a test of your commitment or strength. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you have the spirit and determination to follow your dream.
Take time every day to acknowledge and appreciate your accomplishments – ‘You have done well.’
“It took 63 years, but I finally got it! I always thought that success in life meant being happy all the time. Not only was that naïve, it may also have been the ultimate denial.
Being a caregiver for both my mother and my father taught me that we can plan and shape our lives to some degree, but it will always be more like a series of small journeys and no two journeys can ever be exactly the same.
Some are wonderful, others not. Caregiving is like that. You never know what the day will bring – happiness, anger, fear or love. Yet we just keep going and that’s the beauty of the journey.
The part I finally got is this: for me, the sweetest journey of all is knowing that I have the inner strength to dig deep and find the courage I need to keep trying.”
“People who are successful will tell you they are successful in part because they feel successful. For me, feeling successful is a good part of what it takes to stay a caregiver for years and years. We all need the ‘outside support’ of people we trust telling us we’re doing a good job, but to feel successful, we also need our own ‘inner support’ system.
Your head has to get in the game. ‘Inner support’ is something you have to feel or do for yourself by creating an inner dialogue. Tell yourself, ‘You’re good, you’ve done well, and now take the time you need to appreciate and care for yourself.’ Or maybe even something stronger, whatever works for you. Everyone is different, but the result is the same: the dialogue you need is the one that makes you feel like you’re doing a good job.
When I’m finished listening to my inner dialogue, I feel more confident and I’m more productive, like successful people are.
Ellen, New York
“I actually had a few free moments the other night and my husband and I watched an old World War II movie on TV, complete with spies who were captured and tortured. I said, ‘It’s amazing. They were ordinary men who left their homes and families and went to war. I don’t think I’d have the courage they showed.’ My husband looked at me and said ‘You? You’re amazing. You’re the most courageous person I know.’
I was surprised and he told me how much he admired what I do for my parents – all the problems I take on and the effort I put into trying to win better care for them. The more I thought about what he said, the more I agree with him.
Caregivers are also ‘ordinary people’ faced with extraordinary challenges. Somehow we keep going and try to prevail. We try to keep our balance in what often seems like a world that’s out of balance, at least when it comes to care for the elderly.
Other caregivers’ husbands and families may feel the same way, but may not have the opportunity to say so. I’m sharing my husband’s words with all caregivers. He’s right, we are amazing!”
“Now that I am no longer a caregiver, I often wonder how long it will take my emotional bruises to mend. My expectations were so high, and the reality of what I could do so different, that in the end, my own limitations just confused me.
However, in the same moment I would say that I may have been one of the lucky ones – that’s a thought that will take some time to digest – because I developed the strength and courage I needed to be an advocate for my father during his ordeal. I never expected to become that strong; in fact, you might say I exceeded my wildest expectations. And now I expect to be a better person for having done so.
I have been married for 33 years. My wife, Brenda, and I have a wonderful relationship – after all this time, we still make each other laugh. I don’t recall either one of us ever actually saying, ‘That’s your job,’ but I recently realized that I always relied on my wife for caregiving duties. It was Brenda who got up most nights when our kids were sick. I’m embarrassed to say this, but deep in my heart I felt she was better suited it, so I let it become ‘her’ job.
When my mother was sick, it was Brenda who took her to the doctor and hired a home care worker. When my dad became ill, one of the guys at work said, ‘You’re lucky to have Brenda. What would you do if you had to take over the caregiving responsibilities?’ It hit me like a ton of bricks.
I always loved my parents. Why didn’t I think it was my responsibility to care for them? So I took over one responsibility and then another, until I was in charge of Dad’s care. My friends are flabbergasted. They want to know why I would voluntarily take on this burden when someone was else was available to do it for me. That’s the point, I tell them. It’s ‘my’ burden, or, at least ‘our’ burden.
I’ve thanked Brenda over and over again. I never realized the amount of time caregivers devote or the emotional impact they withstand every day. I won’t say it’s easy or that I’m comfortable with my new role yet.
In fact, I find the role of caregiver unnerving and frightening, but I’m determined to accept the fear and do what needs to be done. In the end, I know I’ll make a difference in my father’s life, and that will make a positive difference in my life.
My mother has much more courage than I’ll ever have – I’d have thrown in the towel years ago. I don’t know where it comes from. Do you have to be that sick before you get that way? Or, is she doing it more for her family than for herself? It’ll take me years of quiet contemplation to recognize all the pieces of my mother’s legacy, but one lesson is with me all the time – I will never lack courage again.
Sadie, New York