Monday, December 24, 2012

Does Caregiver Mentality Ever Change?

"You've been a caregiver all your life and that has got to change!" This was the text message I received from the youngest daughter last week.

On the heels of a post made about taking care of myself first as it will be impossible to take care of anybody or anything if I cannot find a balance AND understanding now more than ever that when you have tended to the needy with great zeal the result may be that you've created the needy....

I spoke about worry and the desire to be free from it. Faith, and how to attain it. Perhaps a message to myself to appreciate the endowment of my new freedom or just a good old fashioned pep talk. After reading so many great articles on caretaker experiences over the years, it is abundantly clear to me that if the caregiver is not taken care of, the caregiver cannot perform the best care.

So how is that going for me?

Insomuch as it sounds like a great plan, the crux lies in what transpires when in the throws of giving the care. There is no time or opportunity to seek therapy, attend group therapy, have your hair and nails done. There is no offensive position on the field.  

My caregiving experiences did not begin with Bill's illness, rather it began some 44 years ago when my brother was born. With so much time in the seat, it makes me wonder how one sheds the thick second skin after so many years and how hard will I search for others to care for?

A recent article from Gary LeBlanc noted, "Once the human heart takes on the difficult but worthy task (and identity) of becoming a caregiver, it will remain a caregiver."

If the caregiving experience over my lifetime now remands me to this identity and life mission, I must be better prepared. Should this plight be embedded so deep in my psyche, there may be little else to do but find some way to manage it.

I will never forget Bill's cousin whispering in my ear after the graveside service, "You are going to experience the most unique emotions; grief and relief."

He was right. Grieving for years at each loss in the steps of digression and relief for the end of his suffering. But, I found fulfillment in my abilities to make his life better. Just as it fulfills me to satisfy the request for a special meal or to plan an event - it completes me.

Saying out loud everyday, "I shall not be a caregiver, I will not be a caregiver, I do not want to be a caregiver" doesn't seem to be working. Upon reflection, more specific prayers are needed. Perhaps it's
that I know that I cannot be a significant and adequate caregiver at this time. That my plans to take care of myself first and worry less for others is unrealistic, but for a spell is in order. Just a vacation from the routine, as it never occurred to me until Kate said it...."throwing the caregiver mantra and way of life out the window may be impossible for me to do."

My name is Rhonda Brantley and my husband, Billy Ray Brantley suffered from Early Onset Alzheimer's Dementia. This is the best shot we have at documenting daily living.

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