We Can All Learn Something From A Caregiver

Posted by on Feb 12, 2011 in Life | One Comment

Normally I would complain to anyone who would listen about working on a near-perfect (meteorologically speaking) Saturday afternoon. After all, there’s running, cycling, patio drinks to be consumed and … well, let’s get real, those trips to Target for toilet paper and toothpaste.

In my case today, I pulled on a purple Community Hospice polo and name badge and helped manage our “Caring for the Caregiver” workshop at the Ramada Inn Mandarin. This is the first of a series of workshops this year that focus on the needs of family caregivers who support loved ones with chronic, debilitating illnesses. These folks are put through the ringer every day and do it all, often with children and grandchildren of their own, in addition to aging parents. They are often soft-spoken, but make no mistake about it — they are warriors, and many of them are hurting. That’s why Community Hospice and five other community agencies team up to produce these workshops 5-6 times a year. We help them take care of themselves so they’re around to continue supporting their loved ones. It’s a wonderful service, and I’m proud to play a role in its production and see the tears and smiling faces of those who have learned something, met new friends, and snagged a sweet door prize at the end.

One of the key lessons you’ll hear through all the workshop speakers is, “You have to love yourself and respect yourself and care for yourself.” It’s like the “loss of cabin pressure” speech you hear aboard taxiing jets — put on your air mask before helping others. Because if you pass out, you’re not doing anyone any favors!

Even if you’re not a caregiver — although all of us will be one at some point in our lives — there is a lesson buried in the workshop that all of us should recognize. Live for yourself first and nourish yourself with the best friends and opportunities, so you are well equipped to help others when they stumble. When you love yourself and fulfill your own needs (healthy needs, of course), you will infect others with the inevitable side effects of strength of character, self-confidence and joy. Then it’s your responsibility to pay these gifts forward to those you love, or maybe those you don’t even know.

Caregivers should be doing this every day, but they often stumble when they put others’ needs before their own — again, and again, and again. That’s not a long term strategy for success in any venture.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I think this is a very appropriate message to share. You may want to feel guilty for feeding yourself before your screaming child, your screaming boss, or anyone else who jumps up and down and emanates, “Me! Me! Me!!!” But put the guilt down for a moment and make time for something you love, and you’ll generate and carry that love in even larger measure to the who needs it the most. It may not be our instinct, but it can be learned.

Thanks for reading and indulging me as I try to pay this lesson forward.



1 Comment

  1. Toula
    March 2, 2011

    Jay, Over the years I have read many, many articles that you have written. This is by far the best. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the day, on caregiving, and what love is really all about.