My wife and I have talked a lot lately about her excruciating sense of loss as a caregiver. For 26 years, we were caregivers to one another, to family, relatives, friends, the clients we served as social workers, the abused and neglected animals we rescued.
Adele was a social worker for 40 years before she became disabled. She also had a Master’s Degree in Health Education and did all her doctoral courses in that curriculum but because of the demands of her job, she never finished her Dissertation. She specialized in dialysis social work, psychiatric social work, gerontological social work, hospice and palliative care social work, and oncology social work.
For 22 years, she was the Director of Psychiatric Services at one of the county medical centers. She designed an inpatient psychiatric unit, helped in the design of the medical center’s Assisted Living Community and trained staff. In her last position as a dialysis social worker she achieved the highest award granted to an employee for going above and beyond the call of duty. She loved her clients and her clients loved her. Her clients with substance related problems were awestruck how this social worker with pumps and pearls knew so much about the street. I’ll never forget a client who had turned his life around with Adele’s help, cried and hugged her the last day she could no longer work because of her disability.
During the course of 26 years, we helped relatives in medical crises, doctor’s appointments, etc. We assisted her aunt and uncle who were able to afford home health care stay in their home until they peacefully passed away at home. We both kept my mother-in-law in her house with a reverse mortgage until she passed away peacefully in her own home at age 92. She had round the clock care while we both worked full-time.
Over 26 years time we rescued about 12 dogs and about 12 cats. Most of them we kept as our pets and adopted out the rest. They were our children. We shed tears of happiness and sorrow as we think of how special each one of them were to us.
Most of all, Adele says that she misses doing the things she used to do for me. Her sense of pain and loss is very palpable. I tell her she still is a a caregiver to me. She says all the time what she wouldn’t give to be a caregiver again like the way she mentioned above. I have to remind her she still is–just in a different way. Perhaps more importantly, I listen with empathy to her as she reminisces tearfully and with deep pain. She would be the first one to say, likely, that much of who she was as a person was about someone who cared very deeply about the suffering of others–not in an unhealthy selfless way. She had a great capacity to balance her care of others with care of herself as well. She asked me to blog about this topic because she thought it might help others here at Caregiving.com.
Adele would like to tell her story and experiences as a caree–especially if it will help others. We decided that I would write or record what she shares and our dialogue about the experiences she relates. Coming soon…