It wasn’t that she didn’t want to care for Charles anymore. The simple fact was that she no longer could. Her mental state, her exhaustion, her ability to think and make decisions was so far gone that she was no longer an effective caregiver and advocate for her husband. If she killed herself, someone would be appointed who could take appropriate care of the man she’d loved for over 50 years. It was the only option she could find.
Diane Akerman makes an interesting point in discussing her work with a suicide hotline.
Choice is a signature of our species. We choose to live, sometimes we choose our own death, but most of the time we make choices just to prove choice is possible. Above all else, we value the right to choose one’s destiny.
I considered this idea in relation to the caregiver-recipient dynamic.
As a caregiver, I tried to do everything my mother requested. Without naming it, I was acting on the belief that it was my responsibility to share with her my mental capacity so she could maintain her right to make choices.
While manageable in the short term, this philosophy wasn’t sustainable over time.
Sacrificial giving is appropriate on an occasional basis. Ongoing giving must be done out of our abundance.
Stress is defined as the state in which demand exceeds resources.
Without support in maintaining a balanced focus, a tipping point will come in the caregiver/recipient relationship where all choice has been given to the recipient, and the caregiver no longer has energy or ability to assess whether ‘no’ is an appropriate response. The caregiver has lost choice in her own life, and now is as vulnerable as the one she cares for, perhaps even more so.
Yes, caregivers need rest, need breaks, need services. But more importantly, they need choice.
Ask a caregiver, “What are your options?” If they cite barriers to every possible change, they’re not being difficult. They’ve lost the ability to choose. it’s time to step in.
photo credit: neonow via photopin cc
Don't miss a post!
Want the next post delivered right to your inbox? Just enter your email in the field below!