Reviving My Caregiving Happiness Jar
hand drawn happiness jar full of hearts

For more than a year, I kept a caregiving happiness jar. At the end of my caregiving day, I wrote a note about something good that happened, and put it in a jar. Every so often, I withdrew random notes from the jar, and read them. The notes were revealing.

First, the notes proved that there were many positive things in my caregiving day, something I need to remember. If I added up the notes, I think they would outnumber my disappointments and challenges. Writing and reading the notes helped me see the caregiving big picture, and my wide-ranging tasks.

When arranged by date, the notes were a written graph of my husband’s health.  My husband suffered a spinal cord injury during prolonged surgery–13 hours and four surgeons–for a dissected aorta. Recovering from spinal cord injury is rare, but my husband’s progress was truly amazing.

Recently my husband had a check-up with one of his physicians. “I visited you in the ICU,” she began. “I can’t believe you are the same person.”

With the help of dedicated physical and occupational therapists, my husband learned to stand, stand and pivot, take a few steps with a walker, and walking short distances in our townhome. His progress was documented in my Caregiving Happiness Jar, and some notes make me cry. Here are a few sample notes.

John says he is getting stronger. Horray!

Wonderful  therapy session today. John is making progress!

John had an evaluation re/his general condition. The rehab supervisor gave him good advice and ordered a special mattress for him.

John exercised on the NuStep bike this morning and did very well.

Today John walked the width of our townhome twice with a walker.

As my caregiving days became busier, however, the notes in my jar dwindled, and finally stopped. While I’m ashamed of this, I understand how it happened. Whether it was extra doctors’ visits or learning a new procedure, my caregiving responsibilities kept increasing, and I was just trying to make it through a day. At night, when I climbed into my four-poster bed, sometimes I was exhausted I couldn’t sleep.

Months passed, and I forgot about the jar until this morning. A disabled woman posted about her kindness jar on a caregivers’ website. Reading the post made me think of my forgotten Caregiving Happiness Jar. It won’t be forgotten anymore.

One of my 2018 goals is to revive the practice of writing notes that document my caregiving. The notes will make me aware, yet again, of my husband’s unfailing courage. The notes will help me understand all the effort I put into caring for him. The notes will help me see the miracle of being married to a loving husband for 60 years, and the miracle of our shared lives.  

Do you have down days? Do you wonder if you’re making a difference? Keeping a Caregiving Happiness Jar may answer these questions and more. Like me, at the end of the year, you will find your jar is filled with love. Find a large jar or box, and write a note today. You are making history.

jar decorated with a heart next to a stack of note paper and a pen

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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