Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!
I love Michael J. Fox. I think he’s a great actor, but more importantly I believe he’s been an incredible inspiration not only to the Parkinsons community, but to all those facing a chronic or life-threatening illness. His interviews, television special, and books ooze with inspiration and encouragement for living your best life possible with an illness.
One of his recent interviews for his new book, A Funny thing happened on the way to the Future, he discussed many topics related to his health but he was asked a very important question about his support system. He was asked, “If you had any advice for caregivers, what would it be?” I thought this was a provocative and insightful question and you could feel that the whole caregiving community was sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for these words of wisdom to fall like manna from heaven.
Fox said, “Let us (those with the illness) do as much for ourselves as we possibly can”. Could the answer be any simpler? He was asking caregivers/wellness partners to pull back on the joy stick of controlling the situation and allow the person you’re caring for to navigate their way a bit more on their own.
We’ve become a society that doesn’t like pain whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. This leads us to jumping in too fast at times short-circuiting the process and in this case that means treating the patient as a bit more helpless than they may actually be. There’s nothing wrong with allowing the patient to get to the point where they need to ask for help or guidance. Allowing them to do as much as possible is empowering and reinforces their capacity for health and healing. It also allows you to take a breath and relax (if that’s even possible) one moment longer than usual.
Michael J. Fox wasn’t saying that you should allow the patient to struggle, fail, or reverse any progress made on their journey to wellness, but he is saying that the diagnosis alone doesn’t constitute incapacity. It’s a delicate dance and it is difficult territory to navigate. This is one of those times when you may need to turn up the sensitivity on your intuition factor and give some slack on those reins and see what happens naturally. You know you’re well prepared if help is needed, but follow the advice of Michael J. Fox and I believe you’ll experience a better relationship on all levels with the one you’re caring for.