Caregiving: a Great Honor April 8, 2012Posted by ijwoods in Blog+.
Tags: caregiving, dying at home, hospice, hospice and palliative care, preparations, providing comfort
This was a sentence I read in Chris’ blogsite The Purple Jacket, a site in part focused on caregiving. When I read that I had to smile because although I don’t know his personal experience, that sentence resonated so deeply with me. Caregiving was an experience that I found magical and took me by storm.
After K passed away, the one word that kept going through my mind was “kindness”. Kindness for two reasons; one for the kindness I observed in the dying process. It was so gentle and caring I couldn’t help marvel at how perfectly it was designed. Secondly, for the kindness that was automatically and magically imbued into my own being, filling my actions and consciousness.
If someone would have described to me all the things I would end up doing as caregiver I would have been petrified and doubted if there was any way I could do it; yet my experience was so opposite. It was as if something from deep within responded with incredible gentleness, kindness and decisiveness to K’s needs. It was not a thought process. Its strength overshadowed all kinds of inhibitions. As a matter of fact, the caring flowed so freely that I had almost no time to stop and consider how extraordinary it was. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized what an amazing thing I had been privileged to participate in.
I don’t think this is the case for everyone, but from others I’ve spoken with it seems common. One of the nurses from hospice was telling me that she started off as a newborn-specialist, only working with babies. She never thought of or wanted to get involved in End of Life situations. One day a friend of hers, a hospice nurse, asked her to come and help with an EOL situation. The experience was so profound for her that afterwards she went into training to be a hospice nurse and never looked back. She’s now been doing it 12 years and every day feels blessed to be involved.
On the other hand, after one of the other nurses commented on how calm and well cared for K was, I said, “well, anyone would do this. Wouldn’t they?” I couldn’t imagine a person in the same situation offering anything less than the best. “No”, she said. “That is not always the case. Right now I am caring for a woman dying of cancer and her husband won’t lift even a finger to help her. He stays out as much as he can and doesn’t really care.” I was flabbergasted.
When K had passed and the caregiving finished, the mindset of caregiving lingered on for some time. No matter where I went or what I did, be it a restaurant, a shop or with friends, my initial response was one of caring, just as if she were still there. My relationship with people was entirely different. I was extremely relaxed not looking to impress but to help, even in contentious situations.
For sure caregiving can be a very tough, stressful responsibility to take on. I found it to be a gift. As MacLellan points out, it actually did and continues to feel like a an honor having had that opportunity. Yes, I loved K very much but this was also a human being supported by the breath of God every moment of her wonderful existence.
If you think you could never handle it, when and if such a situation comes your way, you may be surprised. In some cases it may certainly be true, but the earlier you can do your homework and prepare for such an eventuality will make the entire experience smoother and more memorable for good reasons. Remember, death is not optional so at some point we are all going to face it, either quickly or through a drawn out process. It’s one of life’s few certainties, so there’s no reason to not make at least some efforts to consider what needs to be done so our passing is not a burden on others or ourselves.