When was the last time someone asked how you, the caregiver, are doing? I’m rarely asked that question and I’m wondering if it’s just me.
Almost everyone who knows my husband always asks, “How’s Gar doing?” I keep it short because the real answers aren’t what many really want to hear. I sometimes want to say, “he’s disappearing from me more and more each day.” That I miss our old life together. That his everyday skills are getting more difficult to do and I spend much of my time re-doing things he has tried to do. I don’t know why I want to tell the truth. Maybe it’s because each day can be a challenge and because I seem to be able to “handle” things myself, daily life LOOKS the same each day but in fact it is not. Maybe I want to say that I could use some help but I’m not sure what they could do to help. Maybe I just want to be on someone’s radar.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to sound ungrateful when they ask how he is doing. I’m pleased that he is in their thoughts and that they are concerned about him. I am also not seeking out unnecessary attention.
I have a few wonderful friends who do ask how I’m doing. One in fact texts me if she hasn’t seen me or talked to me in a while and I love getting that text. I want to be visible as an individual and not solely as a caregiver. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want to give up my job as caregiver but I also don’t want to morph into an abstraction of myself.
As caregivers we reap the benefits of being of service, in a very personal way sometimes, to those that we love. But as the disease/disorders/illnesses rob our loved ones of the spontaneity, intimacy, and active partnership we once had, it also robs us as the caregivers. Our world changes differently than those that we are caring for. We are doing double duty by trying to care for them and ourselves, think for them and ourselves, prepare for them and ourselves. It may look seamless to others but for caregivers it can be grace under fire. It takes a lot out of you and can age you faster than the person who you are caring for.
So here’s my plea: if you know a caregiver don’t assume that they would ask if they needed help. Send the Bite Squad over with a fresh meal, pool resources from friends to gift a massage, take the person receiving care to the movies or a park for the afternoon, flowers are also nice as well as cards and texts. We just want to be visible and on your radar.
“We are doing double duty by trying to care for them and ourselves, think for them and ourselves, prepare for them and ourselves.”