Posted in Caregiving

The Will To Live

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

Today I hope to accomplish two things: offer a tribute to my mother-in-law who died last Wednesday 9-8-10, and provide some thoughts about the long-term impact of caregiving and the domino effect of caregiving.

First my tribute:

We all hope for a parent who will provide love and nurturance throughout our days.  Even though we understand mortality cognitively, understanding it emotionally and spiritually is an entirely different ball of wax.  My mother-in-law was a wonderful wife and mother to three (now grown) children, and seven grandchildren.  She was adored in her community as the prominent director of an early childhood education center, and a kind sister to her three siblings. 

Unfortunately my mother-in-law suffered the long-term effects of caregiving.  My father-in-law had a massive stroke after open heart surgery and for the first ten years she took care of him.  The last ten years he was in a nursing home, but she continued to care for him, bring him what he needed, got frustrated when he wasn’t getting the care he deserved and as a result suffered from the biggest fallout from caregiving…depression.

I’ve met way to many caregivers that don’t recognize the signs of depression and therefore don’t get treated.  Depression is a downward spiral and unfortunately she paid the ultimate price…her health.  Knowing the impact caregiving has on the psyche she tried her hardest not to pin that responsibility on her children and unfortunately that decision led to a rapid decline in her health and ultimately her death.  She shouldered the pain of caregiving for her children for as long as possible.  Her three children were by her bed when she died…a true testament to the bond between mother and child.

It’s as if she held on to the pain of caregiving so her children wouldn’t have to live with that overwhelming burden.  As I mentioned in a previous post, not recognizing the impact of caregiving, much to our regret, can have long-term impact on one’s physical, emotional and spiritual health.  There isn’t enough attention paid on the price of caregiving, not matter one’s age it has an impact.  There needs to be more education, more intervention, and more recognition of what is sure to become one of the greatest epidemics of our century.

She will be greatly missed for her love, caring, and compassionate soul. 

The other thing I wanted to address is the notion of one’s will to live.  This is important for caregivers to understand because no matter how you hard you try, sometimes the person you’re caring for still dies.  My mother-in-law had been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and a fever.  After a couple of days she seemed to improve, and the once again a few days later the fever returned.  The doctor explained to the family that he didn’t believe she would recover from this infection.

At that point, the family decided to shift from treatment to comfort care.  They moved her to a larger room so her son, my partner, could spend 24/7 with her.  Once she had moved to the bigger room I believe she understood the path in front her.  I believe that without treatment, without any hope of recovery she let go and died in a matter of hours.  She’d held on for so many years that I hope letting go was a choice and a relatively easy decision.  I believe that even in an altered state-of-consciousness she had enough soul awareness to understand the path in front of her.  I’m hoping her conscious decision to let go was one more way she could take care of herself.

As caregivers it’s important to understand that we can only control so much.  We can’t live for the other person or want to fight for life for the other person.  We have to give each person we’re caring for the opportunity to make those final decisions for themselves either by letting go and dying or by making sure they have Durable Powers of Attorney for Healthcare so we’re clear about their wishes and decisions.  I wish you strength and peace on your caregiving journey.

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