As caregivers to the vulnerable with Alzheimer’s and dementia, we witness their weakened physical, mental and social condition. We are typically the family guardian of our loved one in this health crisis and put on a suit of armor to battle the disease, the complex health care system and the frustration and exhaustion that can accompany the many tasks and pressures we undertake.
Many times we feel we must be the pillar of strength to be the family caregiver and although there is much endurance needed to provide care to your loved one and courage watching our loved one’s decline during this journey – let us take time to connect to their vulnerabilities and our own vulnerabilities.
Why should we take time to do this?
Because to understand the meaning of this caregiver journey, our loved one’s journey with this disease, and our “shared” journey, we should come from a place of common humanity. Common humanity can be achieved by connecting through an open heart and learning from each other – and we need to recognize our vulnerabilities to be openhearted.
As we open up to being self-aware of our vulnerabilities then we learn much about our own capacity for love, compassion and kindness. We become “more human” and can reflect on the concept that there is meaning in the journey that our loved one is going through and our own caregiver journey. The hardship, tears and exhaustion does have meaning – and that meaning is that you are becoming more human (or can) through spiritual growth and deeper connection on a heart-level with your loved one during this time.
A caregiver’s vulnerabilities can be many – fear that they themselves may be diagnosed with the disease in the future, discomfort at their loved one’s decreasing mental and physical capacity, pain with the loss of their best friend and partner, social embarrassment, fear of death, fear of letting go, etc. But out of a shared weakness, between us the caregiver and our loved one, we can help each other on this journey.
As Brené Brown, renowned researcher on vulnerability teaches us, do not numb vulnerability with blame, perfectionism, alcohol/food or other numbing behaviors – embrace it.
Being vulnerable and open is the path to connection and connection is why were are here.
Vulnerabilities draw us closer – and you can be a strong caregiver who demonstrates compassion, courage and kindness while being open to your vulnerabilities. We don’t have all the answers, we are learning as we travel on the caregiver path, there are days we are all overwhelmed and what we see can be scary. Don’t numb those vulnerabilities but recognize them and what you are learning from your loved one as they demonstrate extreme vulnerability.
Spiritual Introspective Questions on Vulnerability:
1. What is the spiritual meaning that you are deriving from your own caregiving to your loved one?
2. How have you become more human caregiving to your loved one?
3. Do you believe there is meaning to the experience your loved one is going through? If so, what do you believe it is?
4. When caregiving duties are overwhelming, what makes you persevere?
Recognizing your own vulnerabilities is Spiritual Step 4 of 7 for caregivers which will be reviewed in my upcoming book 7 Spiritual Steps for Caregivers™: A Path to Meaning and Hope in Alzheimer’s & Dementia Caregiving.
Wishing you Light on your Caregiver Path,