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Posted in , Feb 15, 2021
The third Friday in February (February 19 this year) is celebrated as National Caregivers Day in honor of all those workers on the front lines of caregiving. Indeed, these dedicated professionals, often overworked and underpaid, deserve our applause, especially in the year since the pandemic struck. Where would we have been without them? I remember during last spring’s lockdown how folks in New York and elsewhere would stand outside at 7 p.m. to cheer for them. So please send a kind word or prayer their way on this special occasion.
Yet who isn’t involved in some form of caregiving these days, whether it’s for a spouse, a parent, a child, a friend, a neighbor, even a pet? We devote our time, our efforts and our hearts to the health of those we love. We put our lives on hold to help someone live. We put the well-being of another ahead of our own. We sacrifice, and we do it willingly, lovingly. Yet with all the love we bring to our efforts, the stress can be overwhelming. Caregiver burnout is a real thing, and it can take a toll on our relationships, our work, our finances and our souls.
I’ve had my own caregiving challenges. My mother died of Alzheimer’s after a long, heartbreaking battle that both her older sisters and one of her three brothers also endured as did their father, my Pop-Pop. Our family was beset with caregiving duties and difficult decisions.
My sister and my brother and his wife took on the day-to-day duties for Mom. I lived in New York, some 600 miles from my family in Michigan. I got home as much as I could to spend time with Mom, to take her to lunch at her favorite restaurant and watch Detroit Tigers baseball on TV, even though she had trouble following the games. She hoarded her meals-on-wheels deliveries because “someone might need them more.”
When I got a call that they found her wandering through her neighborhood in the middle of the night telling the cops who found her that she was late for church, it tore me apart that I wasn’t there. I stopped praying that she would somehow be cured of Alzheimer’s and simply prayed for her to have peace and feel close to the Lord. I was blessed to be with her in the final week of her life. But to this day I feel guilt that I wasn’t there every week of her struggle.
More recently my wife, Julee, had spinal surgery which resulted in a serious post-operative infection that laid her up for some time and required daily IV infusions of antibiotics which I got pretty good at administering, if I do say so, along with the other caregiving she needed. I even wrote a book about caring for our beloved golden retriever, Millie, who succumbed to cancer far too young. We did everything we could for her before we did the kindest and most difficult thing of all.
I have mentioned that a form of dementia might run in my family. I feel a spark of panic every time I forget something these days, which seems to happen with more frequency…or at least I perceive it to be the case. A day rarely goes by that I don’t question my memory and brain health, as much as people tell me I’m being foolish. I keep the supplement business in business. You name it, I take it. And I worry a lot about the care I could someday require and whether I will be a burden and my suffering simply prolonged. I have a stubborn independent streak. I don’t like to feel dependent on others.
The specter of dementia concerns me so much that I am writing a book about it and the medical measures I’m investigating that could give me answers. The book will also address the challenges of caregivers and share some of my favorite and most inspiring Guideposts stories by caregivers—stories that have given me hope and reassurance that we never face our struggles alone, that the grace of a loving and protective God lights our way, a God that I am not ever independent from.
If you are a caregiver, Guideposts is here for you in your journey. We have created a devotional magazine called Strength and Grace that will lift your heart day after day. You can sign up for our free monthly newsletter Inspiration for Caregivers and go to the Caregiving section of our website for more stories and tips. Self-care is rule one of caregiving. The more support you have the better care you will give your loved one. Guideposts is here to support you. And we thank you for turning to us.
And once again don’t forget to say a prayer for our professional caregivers this Friday…and every day.