Care is a state in which something does matter; it is the source of human tenderness.
Roll May, psychologist
Just for fun, I googled the word “caregiver” and in .58 seconds I had 44,600,000 results! Pretty amazing, right? Did I learn anything? I learned that the term “care partner” better describes my ideal of a person providing care for my mother. I first came across the term when I was reading about the Eden Alternative. The focus of Eden Alternative’s quality of life outreach is on person-directed care, building true partnerships rather than just one of “caregiver to care receiver.”
To move from seeing oneself as a caregiver to care partner requires the ability to see an individual with Alzheimer’s as more than a shell of their former being. Someone who is still living, breathing and experiencing life on some level. Someone who expresses joy, happiness, sadness, pain, loneliness and longing. The Eden Alternative website describes all caregivers and care receivers as: care partners, each an active participant in the balance of giving and receiving. Care partner teams strive to enhance well-being by eliminating the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom (check them out at: http://www.edenaltd.org).
It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.
Mother Teresa, missionary
In my mom’s time in Oregon, first in assisted living and now in a memory care community, I’ve watched many caregivers come-and-go. Some of them stay only a few weeks or months before moving on to another facility or another line of work. A small handful of the original staff are all that remain in my mom’s current community. Why? Lousy pay and minimal training are major contributors to the high turnover in the “industry.” And the demands of caregiving takes an incredible amount of dedication and hard work.
To be honest, I am very happy to see some of the caregivers leave. There are some individuals who are just not cut-out to work with other human beings! We daughters compare notes – noticing the caregivers who seem to genuinely like their work and who treat our parents with respect and loving kindness. There are others who move our parents from place-to-place, rarely speaking to them unless it’s to give them direction: It’s time to get up, time to eat, time to shower, etc. When our moms are having a hard day, we worry about “who’s on shift” and will they take the extra few minutes needed to reassure an anxious loved one.
I try to remember – every day – to thank each individual staff member working with my mother. I know their job isn’t easy and they’re often working with people who are unable or unwilling to participate in their own care. I am so grateful for many of the wonderful caregivers I’ve come to know and love over the past 2 1/2 years. These exceptional caregivers took the time to learn about my mom’s life, to see her as a person first, talked and joked with her, hugged her and shared their lives with her. And they’ve also reached out to me, offering support and friendship in a genuine partnership to care for my mom.