In the past two and a half years, I have had the opportunity to be in more nursing homes, assisted living facilities and senior centers than I ever thought I would be in during my life time. I experienced it first hand with my grandmother and then through the Bring Smiles program got to see what others see through the eyes of patients, nurses, administrators and the myriad of people that take care of those that need assistance. This got me to thinking about the caregivers.
When someone is diagnosed with an illness our focus tends to be on that person and what they are dealing with. We worry, pray, hope and direct our attention to the person with the illness in hopes that in some way we can make them better. So much focus goes on the individual that the person often lost in the fray is the caregiver. In reality, sometimes the stress and burden that is placed on the caregiver can be as great as the person dealing with the disease themselves.
When my grandmother was in her early stages of dementia, my mother was determined to take care of her at home. However, as the disease progressed and grandma became combative and a danger to herself and others, the doctor finally made the decision for my mom that helping my grandmother was beyond her limitations. She would sleep at the foot of my grandmother’s bed to ensure that she didn’t get up during the night and leave the house. My mom would clean my grandmother’s room after she went on one of her rampages tearing the room apart. Likewise, my Aunt did the same for my grandmother’s son who also had dementia, while he dug up the front yard for no reason at all or threw things at the television. They did what they felt they had to do. They were caregivers.
How many times in the course of asking about how someone with the illness is doing do we actually stop and ask the caregiver how they are doing? The stress and burden that is placed on their own lives is enormous, while they go without complaining because they are caring for the ones they love. Not only do they have to deal with the emotional stress of the situation, they often have to deal with financial and health burdens of their own as they become responsible for two people’s lives rather than just theirs.
I was determined through this situation with my dad to always ask how they were doing, not just him. I realize that it is not just my dad dealing with the disease, but my mom as well. It is why it is incredibly important to make sure that we as a loving family do what we can do to make the caregivers lives a little more stress free. We have to discover our own ways of giving back, supporting and loving both the person with the disease and the caregiver who devotes their life to taking care of those that we love.
Today my heart goes out to every person that has ever been a caregiver for someone in need. You are a special breed. When the times are tough you don’t run you stay. In those moments when you feel you have no strength left, you persevere and go on. You allow your issues to take a back seat while you focus on the person you love. We all have a responsibility to give that love right back to you. Know that we see what you do. We are thankful for what you do. We love you for what you do.
Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles today.