When my husband and I got married 30 years ago, we married for life, better or worse. In our own youthful way we knew what forever meant, but we never know what the future will hold. Will our spouse get a debilitating disease? Will their health be such that we will be taking care of them in our elder years rather than enjoying our time for retirement? All these variables are unknown and for good reason. I think I would be overwhelmed if I could know the future and what it holds for my husband and me. Will I be a caregiver for my husband or him for me?
Having worked in senior care, I have seen some phenomenal caregivers. They are the unsung heroes of aging. Many have no choice but to become a assistant for their loved one. They take care of finances, incidental items, senior care placement, dressing, food prep and serve, general hygiene and emotional as well as spiritual care. That is not even mentioning transportation to doctor’s appointments and prescriptions. It is exhausting work for the one who is responsible for the wellbeing of their aging loved one. Many end up spending their entire retirement savings and time in elder safe keeping.
Common signs of stress in caregivers are loss of interest in things they would normally enjoy, decline in their own health, fatigue, isolation and worry. To combat this stress, accept help. People want to help but many times pride gets in our way and disallows us from letting others assist. Depression and anxiety can also be a result of caregiving, but most common is isolation. Going to caregiver support groups is a helpful tool to remind you that you are not alone. That form of encouragement is priceless when you are in the trenches.
My hat is off to the caregivers in the world. They spend their days in service to others. They sacrifice some of the best years of their life working in ways they never labored in the mainstream career market. Many times they are thrown into the service role suddenly and thanklessly with little assistance from siblings, children or other family members. They certainly have no training. Much like our children who are born with no manual, caregivers also are not given a manual. Yet, they are out in the world doing the best they can every single day to care for their loved one. Caregivers, we see you, we hear you, we salute you. Your sacrifices are seen and appreciated. You may not have known in your youth that this would be the charge handed to you, but you are out there doing it every day. You are appreciated.
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Go forth and be fabulous, Friends!
Jennifer Anglin is a motivational speaker, life coach and author who shares personal stories of triumphs and tragedies to give hope to a dying world.