When we’re first called to be a family caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s or a dementia-related disease – no one gives you a job description, an operating manual or training. We learn “on the job” and we learn from advice from our friends, family, from good books on the topic, or we scour the internet for any and all kind of caregiver or disease information.
I believe whenever we’re placed in a new role, such as a caregiver, it’s best to understand our obligations and responsibilities so that we can focus on what’s important. Also we can go back to that defined role as we get overwhelmed by numerous duties that we have to perform. But many times at the beginning of becoming a family caregiver it’s “all hands on deck” and you could be up to your eyeballs in crisis mode and handling the day-to-day caregiving with no time to reflect, think or feel about what what is happening beyond the immediate needs of your loved one. And that’s fair and normal.
A caregiver will take on many duties over the course of Alzheimer’s and dementia diseases. The caregiver can become the patient advocate, the care coordinator, the protector, the personal aide, the driver, financial lead, insurance auditor, community contact, family communicator and counselor to name just a few.
But at some point, I ask caregivers to take a few minutes to reflect spiritually on the caregiver path they have been been placed on (no matter if they started recently or years ago being a caregiver). You may feel the need to understand what this caregiver experience means and how you could improve upon how you’re handling all the pressures and feelings of loss.
One of the first spiritual steps a family caregiver can take is to ask themselves “What is my role as a caregiver?” And the answer should be beyond just the physical caregiving we do in the reality of our day-to-day responsibilities. This question is on a “spiritual health” level which includes not only physical well-being but spiritual, mental, and social well-being. When the caregiver understands their role then they can use that information as part of their spiritual foundation for decision making, emotional strength and finding meaning in this journey.
I believed my role as my husband’s caregiver was to help him transition from his physical reality to reuniting with his Higher Power with love, dignity, and respect. I was able to articulate that to friends and family when they asked how I was doing and how I was able to handle all the overwhelming duties. It helped center me and made me focus on what was really important. Until we find a cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia we have come to terms with our loved one’s death at the end of their journey with these diseases.
I encourage family caregivers to find 10 to 30 minutes time (and more if you can find it) for reflection on this question and to develop your own personal answer.
What do you believe is your role is as a family caregiver?
Wishing you Light on your Caregiver Path,