The emotional toll on caregivers can be great. It’s hard challenges can be bittersweet but the feelings of purpose and fulfillment can lead to joy. Heartfelt caregiving is such a bittersweet joy with both it’s many heartaches and gratifying moments. Caregiving is bringing joy to so many caregivers throughout the world as they add comfort and meaning to the lives of their patients.
Some of us accidentally fall into the role of a caregiver for a spouse, child, a loved one or a friend. Others may have volunteered for this responsibility. In either case, we are certain that none of us had any idea what we were getting ourselves into. We never knew that such an experience would change our lives forever!
This is Jay… Let me start this article by sharing with you a couple of emotional caregiving experiences I have had. First, about my father. Second, about an elderly dear friend, for whom I am now giving 24/7 home care.
A Once Healthy Man
Until some years ago, I had only a faint idea of what being a caregiver would be like. However, all of that changed when my father was suddenly diagnosed with malignant melanoma on his face at the age of 76!
After a barrage of tests, the doctors told me that there was nothing they could do for him since cancer had spread throughout most of his upper-body lymphatic tissues. They told me that he had only six months to live. They also told me that any surgery would only serve a cosmetic purpose.
I was quite devastated. My father had always been in perfect health. In fact, he looked as if he was in his 50’s. It was hard for me to understand how all this could happen so quickly. However, reality sank in fast when my father started to get very sick a couple of weeks later, and I had to rush him to the hospital.
His hospital stay lasted over a month, during which time my father started chemotherapy. He also had a couple of cosmetic facial surgeries, because he didn’t like the effects of melanoma on his face. He was hospitalized three more times in the next four months. A week into his last hospital stay, he went into a coma. Three days later, he quietly and peacefully passed… In his sleep.
Loved Ones Should Not Be Taken For Granted
I am grateful for having been able to be with my father around the clock in the last few months of his life. I had gladly put my life on hold in order to be with and care for him. Words cannot describe how fortunate I feel to have had such a chance to be with my father. I had always blindly taken him for granted and had seldom taken the needed time to be with him. Too sad that we have to lose those dearest to us before we have the good sense to realize the value of their presence. Such an untimely loss his passing was… What a shame!
All my life, I had thought I knew my father. How terribly wrong I was! For the first time in my adult life, I got to know my father… Sadly for me, it was during the final short few months of his life! How could I have been so inconsiderate and blind?
I cannot help but wonder, how many other people also take for granted that their loved ones will always be there.
Full-Time Home Caregiving
Not all of us have been in a position to be a full-time home caregiver for a spouse, a child, a relative, or a loved one. Therefore, it is awfully difficult, perhaps even impossible, to truly relate to the story above. For those with a similar experience, it is easy to feel empathetic toward others going through such emotional times. These experiences are nothing short of a roller coaster of tremendously strong and life-changing emotions!
Jay says, “I was heartbroken to lose my dear father. At the same time, I was also so glad about the chance I had been given. It was a chance to be with my father, take care of him and get to really know him. All the busyness of life kept us from the time that we should have had with each other. It is amazing to think how it turned out. Only because of the full-time home caregiving were we able to truly know each other man to man.”
Many families choose to place their loved ones in nursing home care once grandma or grandpa lose the ability to care for themselves. We are not condemning that and understand the challenges that can be present. In some cases that is the best thing to do and sometimes it is the only choice. However, before you make that decision, we would like to encourage you to consider doing homecare yourself.
Yes, the emotional toll on caregivers can be very great indeed. Many times it is also physically draining and you do not know how you are going to take another step. Yet you have to ask yourself what the best thing is for your loved one. Your loved one may simply be getting frail and would do very well under your care. Although some people do adapt well to life in a nursing home, many do not and do not live long as a result.
If your finances will allow you to bring your loved one into your home or for you to move into their home. You can then have the opportunity to make your loved one’s last days meaningful and worthwhile. No matter how good the nursing home may be you have to know that no one else would be able to give the heartfelt caregiving that you alone could give to your loved one.
Recovery After Stroke
Jay here… Years later, and decades after my father’s passing, fate knocked on my door again. I was presented with another chance to experience the joy of self-sacrifice, humility, and fulfillment. A very dear and close elderly friend of mine, whom I had known for some decades, suddenly suffered a severe near-death stroke.
Fortunately, my friend survived his stroke! After a long stay in the hospital and comprehensive inpatient physical therapy, my friend’s future outlook was bleak. He was facing a life in a wheelchair with major physical paralysis, severe memory loss, and badly impacted speech function.
It was obvious that my friend needed either 24/7/365 home care, or be put in a nursing home. There was no one to care for him. His wife had passed away and he had no other family on whom he could rely. This is where I came in.
I had made a promise to take care of my friend some years before. It was time to step up and keep my promise. When it was time, I brought my friend home with me to provide the badly needed round-the-clock care. I did not want him to go to a nursing home. He was one of those who would not have adapted and would have longed to just die.
Being a Caregiver For A Disabled Person is a Huge Responsibility
If you have had any caregiving experience, you know quite well that it is not easy. The challenge of providing quality home care for someone who is 100% dependent on your help to carry out the simplest daily tasks is huge! It is a lot more difficult than caring for someone who is simply getting a little older and frailer. I accepted this caregiving responsibility and it has been my number one priority in life. I did once again put my own life on hold to care for my friend full-time. It became my new lifestyle.
I am always either next to or within a calling (voice) a short distance away, from my friend. As a result, there can be no outside-the-house job or activity for me. The alternative of hiring a home care professional to care for my friend is not a practical option either since I am the only one who my friend trusts and depends on. Besides, it is also beyond my financial means to hire a qualified caregiver to attend to my friend on a regular basis.
Avoid Caregiver Burnout
When you are fully involved in home caregiving, it does not take long to realize that you have to take care of yourself too. I have to watch what I eat and make sure that I get some type of exercise in the home.
Because I must always be close by, the only other type of short in-home activity I could do would have to be on the internet. I can come and go as my caregiving circumstances would allow me. This type of activity is important for me. Why? Well, because of “caregiver burnout” and its possible negative effects!
There are many sites, including this one, that tries to serve as a help to home caregivers. By connecting with like-minded people over the internet, you do not have to leave your loved one in order to have a separate life of your own.
The Emotional Toll On Caregivers
Regarding the emotional toll of caregiving. It can, indeed, be very stressful and take its toll on your life as the caregiver. However, we also want to emphasize that many times the role of caregiver actually gives us an opportunity.
In the case of my father, I had not really known him as well as I thought. Caring for him gave me the opportunity to get to know him as man to man. He was a wonderful person whom I never fully knew. We were able to create some memories that I can still cherish today. If I had not taken care of him, that would not have happened.
My friend, who I care for now, is another wonderful person who appreciates everything I do. One of the life’s basic needs is to be needed and appreciated. As a caregiver, sometimes you wish that you were not needed quite so much. However, the sight of that sweet appreciative smile gives you a reminder. It reminds you that you are there for a purpose. You are needed and loved.
Yes, my father passed on and that hurt a lot. Someday, either my friend or I myself will pass on… Then one or the other one still here will hurt as a result. Life is like that. You could avoid the pain but you would miss the wonderful dance of life. There is always a bit of joy in even the most difficult situations. I chose to take that dance. How about you? What would you choose?