What Family Caregivers Want

jan

What Family Caregivers Want

jan
I sat with three strangers, poolside at the community club house. They listened patiently to my animated, hand-gestured tales about my mother's dementia antics. They never interrupted, except for brief comments. When I was done, I discovered one was a nurse, one a current caregiver, and one cared for her mother with early-onset Alzheimer's. All three women anticipated my story, so I was preaching to the choir, but they heard me out nonetheless. Did I feel better for having spilled my personal beans?

As I consider the possibility of being a Certified Caregiving Consultant, and sitting in the other chair, I'm pondering how I can best help another caregiver. While caregiving, I talked to anyone who would stand still long enough to listen, and probably kept talking to their exiting back as well. The conversations with hospice nurses, a social worker, and a professional counselor remain the most vivid in my mind. The nurses came to treat my mother's wounds, but their unexpected compassionate listening touched me. I didn't feel like they were rushing to the next client. There was no sense of judgement. The social worker reminded me over and over that I was doing a good job. The professional counselor greeted me in her office perfumed with aromatherapy oils, and decorated with a priceless hand-crafted textile mural from Ethiopia, and statues of vague female body parts. She never failed to remind me that my mother was too functional to remain on hospice. She listened, just as she was trained to do, and gave me some "homework", but I didn't feel any better after, or satisfied.

I keep wondering, what is it I want, when I talk to other people about my mother and my life as her caregiver? What do I need? Am I looking for sympathy, empathy, pity, praise? Am I trying to be funny and entertain with witty anecdotes at my mother's expense? Do I want to shock my listener, or gain strokes for enduring such difficult circumstances?

What do I want? What do family caregivers want?

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