Care for the Caregiver – Part 2

By Kevin Brown | Bio

In last week’s post, I discussed how care for family Caregivers, especially when the provision of care occurs over prolonged periods, can leave the Caregiver drained of energy and in need of care themselves. I noted that Caregivers should endeavor to maintain their own health, keep up their social network, stay involved with family and share the caregiving.
One gentlemen responded with appreciation for the post, but also noted that for him (and perhaps for many other family Caregivers) the impact of Caregiving over prolonged periods takes a heavy toll and cannot be addressed by well-intentioned advice alone. I could not agree more. In his case, there have been financial consequences and an impact on his own health from the added burden of increasing and prolonged responsibility. I believe this is the case for many Caregivers who provide care over extended periods for family members or close friends.
Many have no other obvious sources of relief. Many find themselves in situations where, for one reason or another, no one else is willing to share in the Caregiver responsibilities. Imagine the tremendous weight that falls upon their shoulders. Whether the Caregiver gives of themselves willingly or is simply the only one left to provide care, the impact over time can leave one feeling trapped and believing there no longer appears to be choice in the matter.
Just recently a friend shared with me that his mother was finally taking a week off from providing care for her husband. To do so, she had to place him in an extended care facility for a week. When other family members heard of this, they wondered aloud how their mother could abandon their father for the week—comments which left their mother feeling guilty for taking a week for herself!
I am sure there are thousands of untold stories of giving individuals who carry responsibilities far beyond what any sane person would expect or ask, if due consideration was present. It is also my experience that those who are not engaged in providing care cannot possibly understand what it’s like or what the full impact may be on a long-term Caregiver.

What can we—as family, friends, and members of church and community groups—do for those who willingly give of themselves and of their life energy in the care for others?
I believe the answer lies in conversation. Conversation is a powerful tool for probing for understanding, for sharing how we feel, for sharing what we need, for negotiating agreements, for identifying alternatives, for holding one another accountable, for expressing compassion, support and appreciation, and, most importantly, for expressing love.
Consider the conversations you may have with a Caregiver. Can you be fully present with them and allow them the freedom to share their  experience as a Caregiver? Can you listen generously to them, with an open mind and heart for the responsibility they bear, the sacrifices they freely make, the sharing of themselves, and the love and compassion they express so fully? Can you offer them a listening that is an opening for them to share their frustrations, their challenges, their feelings of inadequacy for the many and varied tasks associated with providing care, and for the guilt that may exist when they hope or pray for a release from the heaviness of this responsibility?
I have a sense that all Caregivers long for such a conversation in which they could fully share and be truly heard!  Is such a conversation with a Caregiver in your future? Considering the demographics for North America, there may very well be many opportunities for such conversations.

© 2009 Kevin Brown. All rights reserved.