Being a Caregiver is very demanding. It is difficult. It is not for the faint of heart or spirit. It is not for cry-babies. It is not a game of Parcheesi, or a walk in the park.
However, surprisingly, it is one of the most rewarding gifts of love. It is a gift to be given and received.
Three weeks ago my beloved husband, Arnie, got a “tune-up,” through the marvels of the newest medical techniques, expertly from the hands and talent of our surgeon and his team of professionals. Arnie went through a complete and total hip replacement. Now, he has a brilliant, shiny and bright, titanium, and new and improved body part.
But, it was through this very personal experience of being his Caregiver that taught me a new lesson along my own life’s journey.
Tending to the one you love has a mysterious magical energy all of its own. The positive healing effect of care, concern, tenderness, and love is miraculous. The human body responds to the silent language and restorative signals all around us.
This energy travels both ways. To the Patient, it is the energy needed to heal, focused solely on the challenges of improvement, mending, and recovery. The Patient only has one job. It is to heal. It is a time of being selfish. To receive all that is offered and given.
The word selfish usually makes us squirm. It is something we run from. We commend ourselves for not being selfish. Most of the time, we don’t own up to ever being selfish. But, the true definition is not as negative as we give it credit for. Dictionary.com defines selfish as “devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.”
It is simply a word without any power on its own until we “energize” it. The Patient has to be selfish during this time of healing to get all they need to attain their optimum health.
Giving care is demanding. It is difficult. It is an emotional challenge and a test of strength, involving both physical and personal patience. It is a total commitment, and all consuming in the time needed to devote to someone else. It is endless.
But, to be “other driven” at the time of your loved one’s need is an act of pure love. It is a gift from your heart that benefits both of you. This part of giving is sneaky. It surprised me with its powerfulness.
Of course, there are moments the Patient is resting in bed, taking a “time out” from medication, meals or tucked in for the night’s sleep. They drift off to a wonderful dreamland where beautiful images of full health and healing abound.
This is the Patient’s healing time. Restful, rejuvenating sleep filled with peace. When the Patient sleeps and rests, the inner workings of the body take over the night shift. Ever vigilant, cell-by- cell, new cells are built, blood loss resupplied, and the rebuilding, and restoring of the bodies strength and inner-core are taking place.
But, the patient care never stops. Even during resting, “time out” from dispensing medication, planning and preparation of nutritious meals, or scheduling home health care professionals to keep recovery on track, there is work to do.
Listening to the soft, soothing, melodic snoring sonata wafting downstairs by your loved one is heavenly. The peace it brought me was priceless. I was bone weary and yet heart satisfied.
But, long after the night’s sleep begins for the Patient, the day continues for the Caregiver. There are loads and loads of daily and nightly laundry to be done. Some days you check your own sanity. Does the laundry room have a time machine in there? Does the laundry room travel back in time? No matter how many loads of laundry get done, there I was, right back there doing more!
I never thought I would hear and feel the calling of the whitest whites, the brilliant bright of the brightest of colors. It is as thrilling as any victory! To my very own astonishment, I have become, The Queen of Lemon Scented Clorox Bleach, Color Bright Purex, and every product imaginable, named Free and Clear (of dyes and fragrance!).
Everything has to be fresh, clean, and as close to hospital antiseptic as possible. Infection, germs, and viruses love an open wound. These minuscule home invaders are very unwelcome guests, and the deadliest of enemies to a healing surgery patient. When this threesome finds an open invitation, it is like a smorgasbord.
The fact that I, too, am a patient is a special challenge for me as Arnie’s Caregiver. In 2010, I was diagnosed with my second cancer, a rare T-cell leukemia. In 2011, his cousin, T-cell lymphoma, joined us.
As a Patient-Caregiver, my new challenges and changing roles unfolded. I found this new responsibility developed into a totally new dimension of my loving care for Arnie, the depth of which even surprised me.
Caring for my husband has been a joy. He has the spirit and nature of a new born. He is easy. Every bright new day of his recovery brings additional bodily strength and stamina. He is developing confidence in his movements and the re-workings of a new hip. Every day there are improvements and a small victory.
But, for me, this experience has been enlightening. I received the gift of confidence and renewed belief in my own physical strength, my own abilities, and willing spirit. It is a personal victory and mark of success that I wasn’t looking for or expecting. I am capable. I am strong. I am able.
I honor and herald all caregivers. They are special for all of their dedication, determination, and support. I honor every endless trip up and down the stairs or into the kitchen. I honor the endless whitest of whites. For handling the moments of frustration, the times you wanted or needed to cry or scream, a blessed thank you.
The loving work every Caregiver does is acknowledged and appreciated. They are valued for their tireless energy, and always being there for the caring of their loved one.