Leaning In… to Incontinence Care


Leaning In… to Incontinence Care

(Meet Colleen Kavanaugh, a Certified Caregiving Consultant™ who cared for her parents. In this blog post, she shares thoughts on what her life was which became what her life is.)

Leaning In... to Incontinence Care

By Colleen Kavanaugh

Colleen Colleen

I recently came across an unattributed quote that resonated with me. It read, “I thank God for protecting me from what I thought I wanted and blessing me with what I didn’t know I needed.”

If I ever heard this saying pointed toward me while I was actively caregiving, I may have surely rolled my eyes and thought, “Nice try” about whoever was delivering the statement. After caregiving, however, I love the way this succinctly sums up the considerable change being a family caregiver has made in my life and the lives of other family caregivers who have shared their stories with me.

Retrospectively, during caregiving, the check boxes that I ticked off were never on my original to-do list. The accomplishments achieved were not parts of my life goals. The lessons learned were not from classes I volunteered to take.

I would admit during caregiving that I knew what I wanted in my life. Not being able to live the life I thought I wanted was cause for misery. Because the life I thought I knew I wanted was not the life I was living, I was unable simply to be there within the moment(s) before me. I didn’t want to live a life I didn’t want to live.

Think about your day. Do you really want to be there giving incontinence care? Are you really able to "Lean In", Sheryl Sandberg-style, to applying the rash ointment and give it all you’ve got? Can you honestly say you once dreamed of this moment and are in ecstasy that it is actually, finally here?

I hear you laughing. (But if you aren’t and I’ve just described you to a T, please email me because I would like to met you. Sincerely.)

There are just some parts to caregiving that prevent us from hanging up our proverbial shingle and printing business cards that say, “Hello, I am a family caregiver.” It is because, often, this new course of our life is not our dream job and so we can easily overlook that it is, in fact, a job.

Deep Dark Secret Time: I was so in denial of being in my not-dream job, that even at my most stressed, I never thought to Google for caregiver support. Why? I could not attach my role to my reality. I didn’t want to be there with my fingers loaded up with adult diaper rash cream so why would I want to admit to myself that yes, I was living my not-dream life? There was no banner to wave, no custom tee-shirt to wear, no bumper sticker to slap on the back of my car. If I had to make the banner, tee or sticker, they would have read: “THIS IS NOT MY REAL LIFE” or “YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT I SAW TODAY” or “SHOT NERVES, DO NOT UPSET”.

So with no identification to my job.... (Wait, if something is 24-hours a day, does it cease to be your job and become your LIFE? Sure. Let me begin again.)

So with no identification to my life, I spent time denying my life. I would check off, accomplish and learn so much but remain unable to glean any of it for my resume.

Until… I realized well after-the-fact that after a decade of caregiving, I was a family caregiver. On a deep level, I could acknowledge that the culmination of how I grew up and what I believed in allowed me to be there to do the work, to show up, and on a subconscious level "Lean In" to tasks that were not my part of my dream job but a part of me. I was caring for those who cared for me. I was caring for parents who showed me every day, as I grew up, through their own civic commitments how to care for others who could no longer care for themselves. I was doing what I was raised to do, not by mandate, gender, or birth order but by the living example from each of my parents that I witnessed every day living in their home during my childhood. I was now doing my life’s work, not so dissimilar to their work of caring for others. The threads of their lives were fully woven into mine. We were part of the same cloth. Hellooooo A-ha Moment!

Hello, to my new life as a Certified Caregiving Consultant™.

Hello, to my old life in the world of caregiving.

Hello, to my life.

Please share any moments you may have experienced that caused you to understand that even in the midst of where you thought you didn’t want to be, you were actually right where you needed to be.

(Source: Reprinted from Colleen's website, The Longest Dance.)

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