We are mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, grand daughters and friends. We are the ones caring for our loved ones with chronic ailments, disabilities and the frailties of old age. The question is … do we recognize who we are? Generally the answer is a resounding NO. We see ourselves as loving mothers, devoted wives, responsible daughters caring for those who need help or can not care for themselves alone.
Caregiving seems to choose us, emerging from events and circumstances beyond our control. Spinal cord injury, debilitation or sudden illness may come without warning.
This is a job that cannot be skirted and cannot always be delegated. It can be difficult, physically and emotionally. It can be time-consuming. While caring for loved ones can be enormously satisfying, there are days, it seems, that offer little reward.
In a world where even driving to work or operating heavy machinery can be risky, do we really expect mothers like Carole to stick to "safe" jobs like being a teacher or secretary? If anything, I believe a child would be incredibly proud and inspired by a mom who follows her dreams and brings back stories about penguins and snow storms!
When Gladys first arrived to live with us, I was not quite prepared for the exhaustion I was about to experience. It was much like when I brought my oldest daughter home from the hospital 35 years ago. I was constantly checking on her, I could hear every movement and sound that seemed different coming from her room.
Women are, by nature, multi-faceted. This isn’t to say that men aren’t, but that society dictates that a woman must wear many hats during her day: the professional hat, the wife/girlfriend hat, the friend hat, the athlete hat, the daughter hat, and the mom hat, just to name a few. Women are, in essence, excellent code-switchers, able to don a new persona for every occasion. However, I would like to suggest that, in almost every persona a woman adopts lies a caregiver, and because of this, women are placed under an inordinant and unnecessary amount of stress in almost every situation.
Gloria Pan, Work/Life Balance? Time to Lighten the Caregiving Load (also at MomsRising), 7-2-09
I’m tired. My job and two kids take it out of me both physically and mentally, every day. The husband, a most loving partner and doting father, is happy to help, eager for instruction like a dog waiting for its master’s next command. When he’s not focusing on his 70-plus-hours-a-week job, that is. Some days, I resent this terribly. At what point in our game of house did the rules change so that he should be the one free to go out and beat the world while I assume full responsibility for beating the children? (Just kidding, I don’t really beat the children. Okay, when they were younger, maybe I did, but only a little.) Other days, however – and I try very hard for it to be the vast majority of days – I am grateful. After all, though I have the husband, I don’t even have a dog.
Caring for my son, age 7 (a delightful boy with a progressive bone disease) looks like this:
Week 1 :: Monday, new GI doc appointment. I hope this doc will listen when I say that I worry, really worry, that the stomach medicine he takes (a PPI) could worsen his bones, something we don’t need. Could he think hard on this and consider another plan that would treat the GI troubles and not create trouble somewhere else?
Marcia G. Yerman, Caregiving – The Days of the Maiden Aunt are Over, 7-5-09
It used to be the province of the maiden aunt, the unmarried family member with no children of her own. She would be called upon in times of need to help with her siblings’ offspring, or the parents who had become infirm.
Women have always cared for others. Sometimes, it was the only way they could support themselves in economies that didn’t allow for other options (think Jane Eyre).
For those who can not afford the services of others, or are combining caregiving tasks with their own full-time work, the physical and emotional demands are exhausting.
Madama Ambi, Caregiving in Context: A Powered Woman, 7-7-09
Imagine the world without mothers. Do we have a world? No. The center circle in the middle of our world of concentric circles is a mother, a woman who wants to be a mother and is able to give birth to a new human being. Correct me if I’m wrong, but as I see it, this is the smallest unit of civilization as we know it. Yes, a woman needs more than herself to give birth to a new human being and to be a successful mother, but a woman with a sperm donor can give birth and raise a child. A man can raise a child but cannot give birth. The middle circle, which radiates out in every direction on every point of its axis, is a woman.
Linda Taubenreuther, Helping Caregivers Get What They Need Most: Time, 7-7-09
No one who hasn’t walked in a family caregiver’s shoes can begin to imagine how time-intensive caregiving is. The irony is that when caregivers are asked to list the demands on their time, giving care is not always the biggest item on the list. Huge chunks of time get swallowed up by a mountain of other tasks, from detangling insurance and medical snarls to tracking down trustworthy resources for everything from skilled nursing help to home repairs.
Lately, some glimmers of hope have appeared, in the form of entrepreneurial organizations that are finding new ways to meet these challenges.
Teresa from NC, Unless You Have Lived This Life You Can’t Possibly Understand, 7-8-09
My name is Teresa. I have lived alone with my 12 year old son, Tucker, since he was born. Tucker lived despite the odds when he was born 8 weeks early, suffering from IUGR, weighing 2 pounds 11 ounces, with a subdural hematoma.
I was almost 40 when he was born. He went through 3 brain surgeries and had spinal meningitis before he came home at 3 months old weighing 4 pounds 5 ounces. He was diagnosed with CP. Since birth he has had more surgeries than I can count. He has a VP shunt that has been revised at least 4 times.
Juliette from TN, Sometimes I Feel As Thought I’m Going to Pull My Hair Out, 7-9-09
I’m Juliette and on February 28th I began the process of being a caregiver to my 75 year old grandmother, Lou. I’m 27, work full time and volunteer on the weekends through May. At the end of Feb., Nana was hospitalized in the ICU after a fall and a diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer that had spread. She almost didn’t come back to us after a seizure in the ER.
One issue that really frustrates me is the treatment of Alzheimer’s caregivers. Most Alzheimer’s caregivers hear people tell them how wonderful they are for taking care of their loved one. As a caregiver, I learned to appreciate these compliments. They help, they really do.
However, if you have a friend or a loved one that is an Alzheimer’s caregiver and that is all you do — it is not enough. Many Alzheimer’s caregivers are forgotten by family and friends. This is a sad truth that is rarely discussed.
Thanks for the mentions!