When you’re in the day-to-day of caregiving, it can be difficult to find moments of gratitude. Below are three family caregivers sharing their insights and experiences as caregivers, as well as their learned life lessons:
Barry J Jacobs is clinical psychologist and family therapist. Dr. Jacobs is also the author of “The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent” and a regular contributor to AARP.
“During the 7 years I cared for my step-father and mother with dementia, I was often tired and frustrated,” Dr. Jacobs said. “I was stretched thin with too many responsibilities and never felt I could give my all to any one commitment. But I always had the gratifying sense that I was in the midst of work of great importance to help family members I cared about. Even when overwhelmed by the nitty-gritty daily details of caregiving, I also knew I would look back at that time and feel proud of myself for choosing to do the right thing. My caregiving years ended two years ago with my mother's death. I can say that, on the whole, I am glad for all I did. It has given me the confidence that I can hang tough and persevere through other difficult passages in life.”
Lisa J. Shultz has cared for both of her parents and is the author of “A Chance to Say Goodbye: Reflections on Losing a Parent.”
"It is an honor to care for my mom as she prepares to exit this world because she cared for me as I entered it,” she said. “The circle of life has the potential to be precious at both ends. I am filled with gratitude when I view it that way."
In addition, Ms. Shultz encourages others to plan for long-term care and end of life.
"It takes courage to contemplate and communicate one's end of life wishes,” she said. “Expressing those wishes to loved ones is a gift that has the potential to provide peace of mind during difficult times for all involved."
Brenda Avadian, MA, was a caregiver for her father after his dementia diagnosis. She is the creator of The Caregiver’s Voice and the author “Finding the JOY in Alzheimer’s: Caregivers Share the Joyful Times” and other books.
“Caregiving is challenging, no doubt,” Ms. Avadian said. “I use what I call the ‘Diamond Tip’ and it made me a much better caregiver. The Diamond Tip is, care for your loved one the way you would want to be cared for if you were living with the same disease or illness. The Diamond Tip goes beyond the Golden Rule. It invites you to really understand the illness your loved one has so you can provide optimal care. Surprisingly, this makes it much easier on you (and your loved one).”
Ms. Avadian has a list of tips on her website.
She added that she lives by the quote, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you are the world.”
“Know that one person—you—can make a BIG difference in another person’s life.”