[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Many caregivers face what is often a long and painful path “…through the valley of the shadow of death,” and our hearts sink. Staring ahead at what appears to be a bleak future, we are tempted to live in the wreckage of our future—and we are often crushed with despair while crying out, “I can’t do this for a lifetime!”
When I wrote my book, HOPE FOR THE CAREGIVER, I determined to reach fellow caregivers with practical help that spoke to the consistent felt needs of a caregiver.
What are those felt needs?
When thinking of caregiver needs, many mistakenly think of medical insurance or long-term care insurance as the felt need. There is no denying the importance of medical and long-term care insurance, and the absence of insurance provision brings additional harshness and brutality to an already brutal circumstance. Even with insurance and financial resources, the heartache, weariness, and “chronic-ness” of the disease/condition continues—and the caregiver often helplessly rages against the merciless attack of disease, trauma, disability, and age.
Faced with the relentless onslaught of continuing crises, the caregiver is regularly rocked with uncertainty, fear, resentment, heartache, and a host of other conflicting feelings. The caregiver feels the crushing burden of caring—usually with no foreseeable end in sight. And the end that does await …is not a happy one.
While the insurance issue is certainly critical to the well-being and stability of the loved one and the caregiver, three decades of serving as my wife’s caregiver has taught me that one of the most vital felt needs for caregivers is not insurance, but rather assurance. My own journey has taught me that to help a caregiver…to truly help a caregiver…the assurance issue must be addressed.
Most of us can rally to a brutal task for a short time, but when it’s stretches out for months, years, and in my case, decades—hope seems elusive. We feel as if we’re trapped and our lives are not only on hold, but in some cases, forfeit. After a period of time (and it’s different for all of us), a sinking realization hits many of us that we’re not going to “…get through this and then get on with our life.” Rather, we grimly see that this IS our life, and we grieve over what could have been, should have been, what we wanted to have been.
For many of us, this is our reality—and it’s not about to change or improve in a way that we can see. But even with this harsh reality, we are not sentenced to misery. It is into those despairing scenarios that I am determined to share the same hope that sustains me. (continued below)
Watch Peter’s March 2016 interview on Canada’s 100 Huntley Street
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/9ydvu4yETKc”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Hope for the caregiver is not positive thinking, hearts, rainbows, and unicorns. Hope for the Caregiver is the conviction and the experience that we as caregivers can lead a calmer, healthier, and [dare I say it] an even more joyful life—even while dealing with often heartbreaking realities that appear to stretch into an uncertain horizon.
Thirty years of serving as a caregiver has taught me that I can’t wait for Gracie to improve (or worsen) in order for me to live a meaningful and joyful life. I’ve learned it doesn’t have to get better—in order for me to get happy. I’ve also learned that I care for her better when I am healthy spiritually, emotionally, physically, fiscally, and professionally—and I need to do what is necessary for me to maintain that healthiness.
Yes, I grieve and am sad. I become frustrated, angry, resentful, discouraged, and a whole hosts of other feelings. For many caregivers, the journey is one of lingering grief. It’s hard to find closure without closure. But I’ve also discovered beauty, joy, and deeply fulfilling moments in the midst of horrific circumstances, and I’ve learned that I can be as miserable or as happy as I choose to be.
I’ve changed the way I view the whole caregiver scenario and am retraining my mind to look at this differently—far differently than when I used to recklessly hurl myself at “managing the unmanageable.” That behavior and belief system nearly took my family to even worse challenges than what we already faced.
This mind shift requires consistent reinforcement, but it is effective and noticeable.
At the age of five, I began playing the piano—and studied formally all through college (majoring in music.) I clearly understand the piano—and music theory. While I can sit down and play most anything I want to play, I still require consistent, repetitive practice. If I fail to practice, I can immediately tell in my performance. If I fail to practice over a period of time—my audiences will know.
How is that different from anything else requiring discipline and practice? How is that different from adopting a new set of tools and skills in order to change the way we as caregivers think about our loved ones—and our own well-being?
In order to achieve that calmer and more joyful life, we have to work at this daily (sometimes hourly). I love the way I play the piano now, but hate the road that I traveled on to do so. The response from listeners is often tears at the expressiveness at my playing, but that expressiveness comes from a lifetime of watching someone suffer.
All that not withstanding, my wife and I both experience great joy in my music (and hers …she’s an amazing singer). But just as we find joy in our music, I find even greater joy in living more peacefully with a difficult situation that I remain powerless to change. There are moments we share that defy the ability to describe—moments where I experience beauty and wonder that transcend the heartache.
I’ve climbed a few mountains in my years. The trails can be hard and long; the views majestic—but seemingly all too brief. After basking in the views for even mere moments, however, I now notice that those glorious moments stay with me far longer than the challenges of the trail.
“Although circumstances and challenges haven’t changed, I am changing. I’m learning that I can respond without reacting. I can care for without carrying. I can be at peace in the midst of craziness.” —From HOPE FOR THE CAREGIVER ©2014 Peter W. Rosenberger Worthy Inspired Books.
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