I’ve been a family caregiver for three generations of family members, and am my disabled husband’s caregiver now. My caregiving days begin early and often end late. It’s a grueling schedule.

The other evening, when I was feeling spent, Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening,” came to mind. I love this poem and am intrigued by the fact that Frost stated the last phrase twice to make his point. Just as Frost wrote it, I said the phrase out loud twice, and could almost feel his fatigue.

When I became a family caregiver I joined an army of caregivers across America. According to an estimate from the National Alliance for Caregiving, during the last year 65.7 million Americans–29 percent of the adult population–served as family caregivers for an ill or disabled loved one. Despite exhaustion and their own health problems, these caregivers strive to keep their promises.

What promises do we make?

The promise of dependability. Care receivers are dependent on us and want us to keep our word and follow through. If we say we’re going to buy supplies for a loved one, then we should do it as soon as possible. If we promise to take a loved one out to lunch, then we should do it. Our loved ones are counting on us.

The promise of safety. No matter what the illness, no matter what the age, your loved one wants to feel safe and secure. You may wish to ask a consultant to conduct a safety review of your home. New locks may have to be installed on doors, railings may have to be secured, and lighting may have to be improved.

The promise of patience. Sure, family caregivers get impatient, but we can keep our impatience to ourselves. The one thing we don’t want to do is project our feelings on loved ones who are ill. Before I became a family caregiver I thought I was a patient person. I discovered that my patience needed to be enhanced.

The promise of companionship. A loved one who moved in with you had to give up a lot, including their independence, beloved possessions, and the companionship of neighbors and friends. Although we can’t make up for an entire neighborhood or all friends, we can still be companions and attentive listeners.

The promise of quality care. To meet health care standards, we have to learn new techniques, get extra training, and hire outside help. A professional caregiver comes to our home every morning and stays for two hours, which is how long it takes to get my husband up for the day. I would be lost without her help.

The promise of kindness and love. You accepted the role of family caregiver because you care. I cared for my mother for nine years, was my twin grandchildren’s guardian/caregiver for seven years, and have been my husband’s caregiver for two years. That’s a total of 18 years. The fact that he is alive is a miracle and I savor the miracle every day.

The good thing about caregiving promises is that we can keep them. We keep our promises for the loved ones in our care, and because we want to keep them. Family caregiving is love in action and that is a blessing.

This was originally published on EZine Articles.

Written by Harriet Hodgson
Rochester resident Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance writer for writing for 38 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 36 books. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support. She is also a contributing writer for The Caregiver Space website, Open to Hope Foundation website, and The Grief Toolbox website. Harriet has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. A popular speaker, Harriet has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, caregiving, and bereavement conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. All of Harriet’s work comes from her life. She is now in her 19th year of caregiving and cares for her disabled husband, John. For more information about this busy author, grandmother, wife, and caregiver please visit www.harriethodgson.com

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7 Comments

  1. Bless you!! I understand. Took care of my non blood Grandma and her husband for 20 years and now my very disabled husband for 10 hard years and my Dad for 8 and still going. However I am weary.

    Reply
  2. yes… for my own parent’s sake… think of myself less…

    Reply
  3. Very well said! I love the way family caregivers & their roles are described in this article. I totally agree, we have “promises to keep”; caregiving is “Love in action”. Thanks for sharing this. It is so encouraging to know that others understand & value our roles & what we do for those we love.

    Reply
  4. Marie Grace, it sounds like you have compassion fatigue, a form of burnout–physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion–caused by never-ending caregiving tasks.

    Reply
  5. We do carry a heavy load and it’s heavier during the holiday season. I’m grateful for two hours of help each morning from a paid caregiver.

    Reply
  6. Good Morning Harriet! We chatted back when you put an article up about anticipatory Greif. This article you just wrote is easier said than done. I promised all these things and I have just hit a wall again. I have not been able to keep my promises. It so darn hard. I let my husband down this week. We had a f\5th wedding anniversary party and had a wonderful speech for him and have been trying so hard to keep up with those words. He said I took all that away from him when I hit a wall on Monday after our party. Because I lashed out at him because I was so flippin exhausted. He said he felt bullied and that all I said in my speech ment nothing. I have been crying for three days. So angry and so exhausted. Still trying to figure out the balance of be sick with MS and a caregiver to my husband who has MS. IT is so dam hard. I want to keep my promises to him. I really do. I am so empty that I have a hard time just taking care of me. I just came out of a 6 week relapse. I feel like the lost and forgotten caregiver. What about the me the caregiver needs. I push through all the time to make his life good. But what about when I hit a wall?? Even unexpected or maybe expected. I don’t have this all figured out yet. So what do I do when I cant keep my promises or I do everything I can but I am not ok doing it. I will never leave him or be mean to him. What do I do when I cant take care of all this?? I have read your book Anticipatory Grief laughing through the tears I think?? So there is a lot of grief and morning and anger cuz things are changing so much, but then add burnout and my own loss of disease. So frustrated and so stuck. I want to keep my promises that I made to my husband, but I don’t know how to. Thanks Marie Grace

    Reply
    • Thank both for telling your story. It is so hard, I know from my experience as a family caregiver. Both my grandparents during the last part of their lives and my Mother now for 5 years. She has Alzheimer’s Disease. My story is here, as well. The question I keep thinking about and asking, when I read these stories is ‘ Why did you think you could do it on your own?’. And at too great a risk to yourself and the one you care for. I know most of the answers. There should be better help for caregivers. We carry a heavy load.

      Reply

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