Article by Joyce Marie Sheldon – author and inspirational speaker
I know the role of the caregiver – I lived it 24/7. There were times when the well-meaning advice of others was difficult to receive because I was in the midst of an incredible journey. I so very much wanted to do it “right.” It was easy to forget myself – and I didn’t mind.
There would be time for me … afterwards. I do realize now, however, that I might have been stronger, better, wiser and more helpful had I listened to some advice. Hindsight is such wonderful vision!
The End Of Life Experience Thru The Eyes Of The Caregiver
The “experts” tell me there are three things a caregiver must do – eat right, exercise and get enough sleep.
I cannot eat! There is no taste, nor any aroma, that stimulates my senses. Often my stomach turns at the very thought of food. Friends bring cakes and casseroles, not knowing that my loved one can barely swallow and so their gifts go stale upon the kitchen counter. My body is weak and I know it craves nourishment, but I cannot eat.
Some days I can barely lift my body from the chair. Some days, the spoon I lift from soup bowl to my loved one’s lips seems heavy and my hand shakes. There are days I walk from room to room without focus, unable to remember the task I wanted to perform. Is that exercise?
I lift the phone to my ear to answer endless phone calls from well-meaning friends and family. Is that exercise? Anything more would surely cause my heart to burst for I am so fragile I fear my body will break.
Sleep? What is sleep?
I keep one ear on alert to hear the call of my loved one. I have promised to always be there to answer. Sometimes I doze, then awaken, fearful that my loved one might have called for me. I watch for a moment. I listen for a breath. Sleep? What is sleep?
Who is the person who has spoken this advice to me? Is it someone who has walked in my shoes, for surely they would know the impossibility of their advice. Yes, everyone tells me to take care of myself first, but do they understand the magnitude of a caregiver’s mission? These care giving days will end and I must be certain they were lived to the highest level of sacredness.
Yes, I am prepared to sacrifice my well-being for the sake of my loved one. There will be time enough to eat and exercise and sleep. Right now, my mission calls. I am a caregiver.