We don’t hear about it often, I don’t even think about it often, but there is a bright side to caregiving.
Much of the current public dialogue on caregiving is, and should be, focused on the toll that caring for a loved one takes on the carer–and how we can, as a society, better support those in a caregiving role. It is a critical societal conversation and it’s absolutely worthy of the lion’s share of thought, collaboration, and conversation when it comes to caregiving. After all, there are over 40 million (and counting) family caregivers in the U.S.
It can be (and most often is) an emotionally, physically, and financially debilitating endeavor. As a caregiver, I’m thankful for organizations like LeadingAge, National Council on Aging, and AARP using their respective platforms to keep the conversation going. There is progress being made weekly, be it in the form of new and innovative resources from the likes of Tech Ur Elders or MemoryWell , or in the form of legislation. Good stuff is happening and it’s exciting.
One thing I don’t personally spend enough time thinking about though, is the bright side of my caregiving journey. I’m most often so in the weeds day-to-day that I lose sight of the bright–happy, enriching, fulfilling–side of caring for Mom. I don’t see it or feel it every day, but it does exist for me.
I was thinking about this on a walk the other day. Mom was having a difficult day and as a result, I was too. When we hung up the phone I was discouraged and searching for any positive I could find. I wasn’t in Tony Robbins mode, I was just trying to make myself feel better. So this question popped in my head: “what’s the bright side?” I was in a mood, so it was a surprise when I rattled off three positives straight away. I’ve been thinking about them since….and I believe them. Even though I don’t acknowledge them as often as I should (I’m working on that), they are bright sides of our situation.
Mom and I talk way more now than we ever have
This was first to pop in my head. And it’s true. I’ve never been the best at keeping touch. Prior to Mom’s dementia diagnosis and me moving into this role, we might have talked once a week. Maybe an email or two in between, but we definitely weren’t talking any more frequently than that. We’ve always been close but talking every day was never our thing.
Now, we talk daily (except when they’re are phone issues) and I love it. The conversations are different–some days Mom has a hard time, and we talk a lot of daily logistics–but we talk about regular mother/son/Mimi stuff too. A lot. What’s up with the kids, who she talked to at lunch or dinner, what’s going on with Lindsay and I. We talk about the normal stuff. Every day, sometimes more! And it’s awesome.
Mom’s reality due to her condition is that she doesn’t retain a lot of these conversations, but I’ve realized over time it doesn’t make them any less impactful for me. I love it just the same. So much so that I wish we’d always been daily mom/son talkers. When I get out of my own head and take a step back, this is most certainly a bright side.
Mom owns her dementia. It doesn’t own her.
I’m proud of Mom for how she fights. Mom’s declined, and of course she gets down and sad at times. I put on a brave face and work hard to be the positive one, but it’s sad for me too. It’s our new normal. She’s not the same as she was four years ago. She’s not even quite the same as she was a couple of months ago. But the way Mom fights inspires me.
She pushes herself and puts herself out there. Mom doesn’t have the confidence that’s been her hallmark, but she puts herself out there anyway. I’m proud of her for that. It helps me and her friends and all those that know her to see Rosemary first, instead of her condition. She’s courageous and I’m proud. Definitely a bright side.
The staff at her assisted living community
They’re wonderful. Every time I’m there, I feel thankful for them. They’ve made a conscious and concerted effort to get to know Mom and it’s clear they care. In doing so, they help Mom make sure that she owns her dementia and not the other way around. They help her see Rosemary first, so Mom can then do all she can, to make sure we all do too. I’m beyond thankful for that.
This is the biggest of all. More than a bright side, it is a true gift. I see the world around me differently now. My lens is more thoughtful and empathetic. Caregiving gave me that. It has refined my view and understanding of what is really important in life. It’s shown me what really matters.
Watching Mom live with dementia (see #2 above) and the job of caregiving have been a master class in real perseverance. These are things that transcend caregiving and will help me live a better life. I’m a better person for having had the experience.
Would it have come without caregiving? Maybe in time and with age. But I’m glad I have it now and am thankful caregiving gave it to me.
Here’s to caregiving’s bright side
So yeah, I’ve realized (in time) that there are positives to the story we’re writing. I wish we weren’t in the situation we’re in but I’m thankful for the bright sides. To be a better caregiver and person I’m going to give them more attention.
What are your caregiving bright sides?
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