Modern Caregiving Transitions

We live in a world where we are not only encouraged but expected to be first. First in line, first to be picked for the team, first one to finish the race in work or play. Our egos are primed to be first. Being first sets us apart and gives the feeling of dominance. When we are first, we can shine in our efforts, skills, and achievements…isn’t that all that matters in today’s world? We are taught at a very young age to be proficient and remain first or as close to first as we can, win the praise and esteem of others. As we age this is what makes us successful and provides us with a comfortable satisfying life.

Or is it? Being first really doesn’t matter to the caregiver. In caregiving being first means the person to whom you are providing care. This is directly opposite our worldly pursuits. I seldom came in first – the joke in my family as I was generally fourth, a great effort just missed the opportunity to matter by a hair. In my book, One Caregiver’s Journey I chronicle my father’s illness and death and how I maintained a full-time job but was always there to help my mother provide care. After his death, I provided support to my mother on the farm while continuing to work a full-time job. Her two sisters were not well, and my mother would assist them which meant I was driving them to appointments or running their errands. I remember being at a family gathering when someone asked what I had been doing with my time besides taking care of old people.

Caregivers seldom put themselves first or cater to their needs or wants. Caregivers have the innate ability to break from the world’s noise and create a space of silence in our lives and we understand what it is to be called in a different direction. When we can be playful, joyful, and even carefree, life is good.  We want our relationships to work and live in peace in our homes. But rather than put ourselves first we are empowered and led to do good works for the benefit of others

Caregivers are not often part of modern society or modern families. A good caregiver knows full well this duty we are called to is temporary, the gig will end. And even when it ends it is very difficult to put yourself first and not be at the service of helping others. About two months prior to my mother’s death my brother’s wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness. After my mother’s passing, I assisted my brother and his daughters wherever I was needed for another two years. It is in the last year that I am truly in a place where I can put myself first and it is a struggle.

Caregiving and being there for other people is not sainthood – it is a commitment.  Our world is in transition, many people are suffering from Covid-19, the loss of loved ones, ill health residual complications after the illness, loss of income, and a roof over their head. The transition is evident when you look around and the world is filled with hate and divisiveness for our fellow humans. Once people figure out that being first is not always the winning effort and caring for others is truly the winning effort maybe the world will return to a place where we all want to enjoy.

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