One of the greatest challenges my family faced when Alzheimer’s disease began preventing my grandfather from caring for himself, was figuring out who would take care of him.
While my grandmother was still alive, she was frail herself and unable to meet the physical demands of caring for him. And while I know she loved him, it was difficult for her to accept the demands this new role of “caregiver” presented to her.
My family experimented with several home health aides – unsatisfied with many of the early arrivals. Being a caregiver is not easy and requires much more than simply being able to handle the everyday logistics – eating, dressing, bathing.
It’s about treating the person you’re caring for with dignity, respect, compassion, patience, humor and above all love.
My grandfather was fortunate enough to find such a person – a caregiver who made the last few years of his life filled with dignity, laughter and meaning.
While my grandmother was often threatened by this caregiver, no doubt because of her inability to care for her husband herself and the disruption to her normalcy, she eventually understood the significance of having such a person around.
While she was certainly invaluable to my grandfather during his battle with Alzheimer’s, she also became a confidant for my grandmother – someone to teach the value of patience and the ability to still love the person before you, just in a different way.
She truly became like family to us – a wonderful spirit sent down for my grandparents at a time when they needed someone most.
And admittedly, she taught me a great deal as well. Lessons in caring, unconditionally, that I hadn’t learned before. It’s because of her dedication and unwavering compassion, that continues to inspire me to be a better person, a more patient person, especially when it comes to caring for those around me.
But the sad reality of life is that everything is temporary, and eventually everyone needs to move on with their lives – to do what they need to do in order to provide their life with every opportunity for happiness.
Still that doesn’t diminish the lasting impact they’ve left on our lives and in our hearts.
The caregivers I reference above are truly angels in this world – a rare breed who understands that caring is about keeping people protected, independent and dignified regardless of the circumstance.
I’ve had the good fortunate to know two of these individuals during the course of my lifetime. I’ve come to admire, respect, love and cherish each one of them for the miraculous gifts they’ve provided to those I love.
Anyone can simply “toss” their loved ones into an ill-equipped nursing home. But few will seek out these “angels” for those who once cared for us. Tia Walker (The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love) states, “To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.”
Success is measured by many things in life – money, notoriety, status, material possessions. But as famed author Maya Angelou once remarked, “If you find it in your heart to care for someone else, you will have succeeded.”
For all of those wonderful caregivers in the world and the two I reference above, I offer you my deepest appreciation and love.