Caregivers: You 'Gotta Love Them'!






Caregivers: You Gotta Love Them!

by

L.T. Force, Ph.D.

What I have come to realize across the years is - if you have seen one Caregiver - you have seen one Caregiver! Caregivers are like fingerprints - no two caregiving experiences are the same. Caregiving is an individualized experience.

I write this reflection from a “lived experienced” perspective. For a seventeen year period, I could easily identify with the role - of that as a Caregiver. Our Mother lived to the age of 97 years of age. For the last four years of her life - due to advanced needs - she lived in a Nursing Home setting. I remember, after a long period of rehabilitation, the first night she arrived at this Nursing Home. I had previously conducted a lot of training at this Nursing Home (due to my job in working for a NY State agency). The first night, as she was settling in - she asked me: “You know a lot of people here, don’t you?” I said “Yes, I do”. And then she said: “So you put me here to die.” Her statement was like “getting hit with a Bowling Ball”. The ride home that night was full of deep thought and sad reflection. The next day when I arrived - I was prepared for her question again. She once again asked me: ”Was she put here to die?” - but this time I was ready with an answer. I said: ”No, Mom, we didn’t place you here to die. We made these arrangements so you could live. We had asked you if you wanted to come and live with us. My Mother, a very social and independent woman replied:“I don’t want to go and live in the

country”. (We live in a rural part of NY and my Mother had resided in a Metropolitan/ City setting). My brother, and our families, surrounded her with love, care and presence. Four years later, at the time of her death - she was a “Rockstar” in this Nursing Home - she loved the staff and they loved her.

When she died - I realized our “Greatest Fan” - had left the stadium and crossed the threshold. As I tell my students, in my Psychology of Death and Dying Course: “People live uniquely, People die uniquely and People grieve uniquely”. The “grief experience” is as unique and individualized as the Caregiving experience. It came to me - probably the best way to work my way through grief - would be to write about it. I wrote and published a Book titled: The Detoxing of Caregivers: Key Tips for Survival, Strength and Patience:https://www.amazon.com/Detoxing-Caregivers-Survival-Strength-Patience-ebook/dp/B01MDU3E8Q/ref=nodl_ The overarching theme of this Book is: “You can’t take care of someone else - if you are not taking care of yourself!” The process of writing and reflecting provided me: "a vehicle to help move through grief”. Six years later, the fond memories exist - as I hope they always will.

What have I learned during this six year period - and across my professional lifetime of working with individuals and families who are engaged in the: “Caregiving Dance”? I have learned, as I stated at the beginning of this reflection….”if you have seen one Caregiver - you have seen one Caregiver”. Yes, it is an individualized experience - influenced and cultivated by the dynamics of one’s family, the impact of gender (I do believe, the expectations and delivery of Caregiving Styles are different for males and females.) the emotional history and exchange between the Caregiver and the Care-Receiver and the impact of the cultural and social-economic status….all of these factors and determinants influence the Caregiving Experience.

However, I also see a commonality….and that commonality is captured in the one word that is found in the European definition for Caregiving…where the word Caregiver is not used to describe a role….but rather the word: “Carers” is used, i.e., , "one who cares for another". I really like that reference - as it moves the experience from a role….to an experience from the heart. Caregiving can be an:overwhelming, isolating, frustrating and a rewarding experience (all bundled in one). And what is the major takeaway for all Caregivers? Caregivers….You 'Gotta Love Them'!