Just today, while having my exercise at the park, I saw a man lovingly held his mom as they scrolled slowly at the park. I was not sure of the lady’s condition- it could be that she was either recovering from stroke, or she was undergoing cancer treatment therapy because the way she had walked was a little wobbly and she was weak. As I passed both of them, the lady looked me straight in the eye, I could see that even though lacking in physical strength, her eyes were still alert. I try to give her a comforting smile. The will and the reason to live is there- nurtured by what I believe the love of her son and her family. There was sadness, worry and anguish in the man’s eyes…even though he tried to hide from his mother- and I understood exactly what he felt, having been a caretaker myself.
The caretaker’s role is very important- as instead of being so used to be on the receiving end of care and love, we find that the role is suddenly (and cruelly) switched. No warning, no training and induction. It’s ‘on the job’- and there is no choice but to ‘grow up’. Our parents who have been a pillar of strength and had seemed invicible is not helpless and become fully dependant on us, not physically but emotionally for support.
We have to provide the support for our loved one to recover- because often in a debiliating health condition, it is not the advancement medical treatment or the best (or expensive) hospitals- but the will and reason for the patient to want to go on to overcome the suffering. It is in such moments that our true inner strength is tested, often to the breaking point.
Others may try to ‘outsource’ these jobs to foreign maids to be the major caretaker- but it is rare, if not impossible that any stranger would be able to replace the love and tenderness. I’ve known of people who stopped working to take full care of their parents who are not well- of bathing, cleaning, feeding and changing diapers for them. I consider such people to be very noble and they have my highest respect and regards.
It takes all the person’s inner reserves, patience, and will of steel. Often the caretaker cries alone for no one would be able to understand the anguish, fear and pain. Sometimes the patient becomes cranky and puts the caretaker to the verge, testing the patience to the limits. If you are currently in the role, tell yourself…the hard times would indeed pass. After a while, everything sort of numb up and you’ll get somehow get used to it.
If the person you are caring for recovers, it’s a great blessing- and the person would likely change as he/she would have felt she is being given a new lease of life. If unfortunately he/she succumbs to the illness, you would have the comfort of knowing that indeed you have done your best. No regrets or remorse- we can chase after wealth anytime but the chance to express our gratitude is just this once. When the time had passed, no one- not even us would believe all the excuses.
Care for the caretaker
Even so, the caretaker must not neglect his/her own wellfare. It is important to still have friends- even though at this stage, the choice of friends would be important. Don’t be upset or angry when people whom you thought were your friends suddenly stopped calling or seemed to drop out from the radar. When you tell them your pain and fear, they may either don’t know what to say or to say something totally ridiculous that ended up making you (and them) feel worse. In a sense, sometimes such situation may trigger their fear or some inner pain- something that they are not ready to deal with. So they stay away and avoid. Don’t get angry with them, and don’t retreat into a shell and hate everyone. The world is not a bad and mean place.
I would always be grateful for a friend who dared to risk the friendship by ‘asking me to snap out of it and crawl out of my shell’. He told me that if I choose to isolate myself, I would not be fit to take care of anyone else because my own emotions are not well. It is true because as I started to go out and join some social activities, my mood is more uplifted and I was not so sad. So the same is for you, if you are the caretaker- during the crucial time, you need to take good care of yourself, including your health. So eat nutritious food and get some exercise/movement. It would not benefit anybody if you fall sick and spread the germs around- as the person whom you are caring for may already have a compromised immune system.
Watch more uplifting movies (not those with merely empty and senseless jokes), listen to taped motivational talks and positive phrases. Avoid anything depressing, critisizing or negative as it may easily influence your emotions.
Caring for someone whom you owe a great debt of gratitude, and who is now defendless and rely on you is the one of the most virtous and noble thing you can do in your life. You can donate tonnes of money to all the old folks home in the world but it would not equal the fact that you take good care- changed their diapers and clean them up, feed, hold and comfort your aged parents , whom have selflessly loved and supported you from the day you were born.
It is a difficult and fearful period of their life- please don’t let them go through it alone.