[I]n the twenty-first century, becoming a caregiver is a transformation that comes at us because today the ‘call to care’ is at odds with the imperative of work and the call to individual achievement. Being a caregiver is not something most people think or dream about, let alone prepare for, even though it’s a role many of us will inhabit, since there are approximately 43 million informal caregivers in the United States and 6.5 million caregivers in the United Kingdom.
When a loved one becomes a caregiver everything changes, including responsibilities, beliefs, hopes, expectations and relationships. Caregiving is always different than we imagine it to be, largely because so few of us think through our care roles in advance. The disorientation associated with these roles can be deep, intense, and isolating because it entails a series of paradoxes, including an ongoing tension that becomes difficult to reconcile: this is a relationship you may not want but feel you must accept.
In the resulting process of transformation, your loved one’s story, your story, your relationship story, and the ‘cure’ story you have mapped out in your head can betray you when what happens isn’t what you thought would happen – or should. It’s as if someone steals the script you have been working from your whole life through.
From diagnosis to death, my dad’s journey was a callously swift nine months. A strange lump in his thigh turned out to be osteosarcoma, which then...