Round and Round the Caregiving Circle
Oriental cherry sakura blossoming in black enso zen circle isolated on white background. Traditional ink painting sumi-e, u-sin, go-hua. Contains hieroglyph - beauty.

The circle is one of the oldest shapes in human history. Drawing circles must be instinctive because every culture has them. I envision caregiving as a circle because sometimes I keep running around and accomplishing little. My caregiving circles change with the day and tasks that need my attention. When I get to the end of the day, sometimes my circle is still full.

This is my 23rd year as a caregiver, nine years caring for my mother, seven years caring for my orphaned twin grandchildren, and seven years caring for my paraplegic husband. In addition to being a caregiver, I’m a freelance writer. I work hard and my caregiving circle should get smaller. It doesn’t. The circle keeps getting larger and caregiving is more complicated.

My husband has become extremely short of breath. He gasps for breath when sitting quietly in his wheelchair. Bouts of coughing come on suddenly. He coughs for ten minutes or so. “Do I need to call 911?” I ask. A retired physician, he shakes his head no. Then too, I have my own health problems—arthritic hips, arthritic hands from typing for decades, and a pig valve in my heart to remedy acute heart failure.

We are quite a pair.

To add to my worries, my husband’s short-term memory is failing. I tell him what we’re having for dinner and 10 seconds later he asks, “What’s for dinner?” He has trouble remembering what year it is and what day it is. Clearly, he is in the early stage of Alzheimer’s. How could I help him?

I contacted his primary care physician, explained the problem, and she ordered a variety of tests. The results showed a healthy heart and some breathing obstructions. We live in a retirement community. I contacted the Home Health services and enrolled us in its plan. Being a member of this plan is like insurance. If we’re in trouble, I have a number to call and know help is on the way.

We already had a nurse who came each morning to get my husband up for the day. I asked Home Health services to send an aide twice a day for 15 minutes. This person helps my husband pull himself up into the standing frame. Using the standing frame helps him transfer to the bed for catheterization. Having an aide prevents me from injuring my back.

Another solution came as a surprise. I have an MA in Art Education and taken many art courses. My latest book is illustrated with Doodle Art, something I didn’t know existed. I researched the art form, ordered pens and a sketchpad, and tried it. Doodle Art relaxes me. When I’m working on a doodle, I become so engrossed I forget about my problems.

In addition to Doodle Art, I’m drawing Japanese Enso circles, a practice related to Buddhism. A circle is drawn with one breath and one continuous brush stroke. An Enso circle is full, yet at the same time, it is also empty. Like the Enso circle, a caregiver’s life is full, yet it can feel empty and alone. Sometimes you may feel imprisoned by the circle.

You can help yourself by getting volunteer or paid help, seeking medical advice and treatment, or taking up a new sport or hobby. Doodle Art and Enso circles enrich my soul and may do this for you. Though we live far apart and don’t know each other, we have the same goal—to fill our caregiving circles with kindness, purpose, and love. We can do it.

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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