This is a guest post by Lauren Hill, a contributing writer for LiftCaregiving, a Richmond, VA company offering support to caregivers.
“Patience and fortitude conquer all things.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The journey of life is replete with many challenges and obstacles. One issue facing many people is caring for aging and ailing loved ones. Life can include a host of unexpected health issues, and in many cases the care of the sick often falls on their family. This care routinely includes complex medical issues, in addition to dealing with the emotional fallout associated with extreme sickness. In the case of diseases like Alzheimer’s, it can mean watching a once vital and alert loved one slowly melt away, while concurrently tending to their everyday physical needs.
Despite their important work, caregivers are an often forgotten part of society. Many don’t consider how important they are until they find themselves in a position of giving care or being cared for. Only then do they realize that being a caregiver is often a full time job, requiring impossible strength and determination to simply get through each day. Not only do they care for the physical needs of the very ill, they also offer emotional support, which can be just as important as any medicine or treatment.
Being a caregiver can have untold health effects. Long hours spent caring for a loved one can contribute to ill health, while the mental strain associated with caregiving can lead to emotional concerns, such as anxiety or depression. Without a proper support network, caregivers can feel unduly stressed and essentially alone in their duties. One can hardly offer proper support to the ailing in such a state, in addition to maintaining their own well-being.
Many are now emphasizing the importance of caring for the caregivers. Support organizations have been formed that not only raise awareness for the importance of caregivers, but also actively contribute to making the lives of those who tend to others easier and more enjoyable.
One way of supporting caregivers is by offering words of solidarity and inspiration. The following are a few examples of famous caregivers and their invaluable words of wisdom regarding the practice of caring for loved ones in the throes of terminal illness. These are people who have experienced first-hand the difficulty of caring for someone full time. Through their words comfort is gained by so many in the same position.
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." – Helen Keller
The story of Helen Keller is perhaps the most famous instance of the impact a caregiver can have on one’s life. Through the tireless work of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, Keller was able to transcend her profound ailments and go on to lead a rich and fulfilling life.
Upon developing the illness that eventually claimed her sight and hearing, Keller was left with little options for living a normal life. Many assumed she was beyond help, that a child with her disabilities would be hard-pressed to have any semblance of joy or contentment.
Sullivan did not share this belief. She worked tirelessly with Keller, laboriously teaching her the basics of education, until a breakthrough was made. As a result, Keller went on to flourish academically, ultimately becoming a social justice advocate. Without Sullivan’s intervention, things may have turned out much differently for Keller.
“There are only four kinds of people in the world - Those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” – Rosalynn Carter
This former first lady is well-versed in the act of caregiving. From an early age, Carter has been tasked with looking after ailing family members. Carter stepped up and assumed the role of primary caregiver to both her cancer-stricken father and her younger siblings at the age of 12. Carter later provided care for several family members throughout her life, including her mother, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 94.
These experiences obviously left an indelible impact. Carter devoted much of her time as first lady shining a light on the work that caregivers do, culminating in the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving. The organization is devoted to offering a support network for caregivers, including funding programs aimed at assisting caregivers in their difficult tasks.
“When the world is so complicated, the simple gift of friendship is within all of our hands.” – Maria Shriver.
Maria Shriver helped care for her father after he developed Alzheimer's. She has since become a champion of Alzheimer’s caregivers, and continues to be an advocate for both victims of Alzheimer’s as well as those who care for them.
After witnessing the incredibly trying job in store for caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, Shriver has undertaken many fund raising events to support all those affected by this pervasive disease. Through marches and charitable donations, Shriver continues to help those who devote their lives to helping others.
“It is so important as a caregiver not to become so enmeshed in the role that you lose yourself. It's neither good for you nor your loved one.” – Dana Reeve
Dana Reeve famously cared for her husband, actor Christopher Reeve, after a grave horse riding injury deprived him use of his body from the neck down. Reeve was the face of caregiving for many years, diligently caring for her husband with courage and humility.
Reeve’s life was fraught with adversity. While contending with her husbands injuries, Reeve was dealt a heavy blow when her mother suddenly fell ill and ultimately died of ovarian cancer. Despite the sheer amount of misfortune Reeve faced, she never lost her upbeat attitude and sense of humor. These qualities proved invaluable to her as she faced her own sickness.
Reeve is a testament to the resilience of caregivers. No matter what she was faced with in her life, she rose to the challenge. She is still a beloved figure among the caregiving community for her unbelievable grace under pressure.
Caregivers come in many shapes and forms. Whether you are looking after an ailing family member or are professionally employed as a caregiver, you are surely aware what a truly rewarding and challenging task it can be.