Few things are more frightening than when we face a serious illness. This brings home our impotence to control some of the things that happen to us. Money can secure us medical treatment and care, but not a cure. That is never guaranteed, regardless of how much money we are willing and capable of investing. Our will power, our strength, our many degrees, diplomas and education, may equip us to seek the best care and ask the right questions, but they will again not guarantee us a better prognosis.
When this challenge comes to our lives, we feel vulnerable and frightened. What does the future hold? How long will the challenge last? What changes will it bring into our lives? What will be the outcome? We allow strangers to poke at us, to probe and invade our privacy in ways we would never had dreamed of before becoming ill. When this challenge relates to any of our loved ones, it drives this fear and impotence up a notch. Yet, most of the time, these challenges are what shape us and mold us into better, stronger, wiser, more empathetic people. The kind of people, who can then help along others facing similar challenges.
I learned this lesson for myself several years ago. On April 20, 1991, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. On that day, my mom, my six siblings and I embarked on a voyage of heartache which ultimately honed us into stronger, wiser people.
In spite of my medical background, I felt fear and tried very hard to deny what was our reality then. It took me a long time to accept the changes his illness brought into our lives. Every aspect of our lives was affected. I became the caretaker of the man who had shaped me and taken care of me my whole life. That was very frightening. I had to seek help and depend on others when my entire life, I had prided myself on my self-sufficiency and autonomy.
I had to become humble and recognize that, in spite of my many years of studying and medical degree, I did not know much about what was happening to my father, and needed to come out of my comfort zone and look for the answers we needed. Dad lived with me for the last nine years of his life and I became one of his main care-givers. Heartbreaking and frightening as they were, those years also left valuable lessons.
My book, “ I Am My Father’ Keeper. The Ten Steps to Caring for the Elderly, “ chronicles what we endured as a family, shares the lessons we learned, and directs the reader to the valuable resources we painstakingly found little by little throughout the years.
I wrote the book with the hope of easing up the load of others facing the same challenge we once did. Written with the dual perspective of the medical practitioner and the actual caregiver, it has been called a valuable resource guidebook designed to empower caretakers with valuable counsel and resources. It has been featured in the Maria Shriver Blog several times, and the lessons or steps I share are being hailed as “invaluable to anyone who provides care for the elderly.” (ForeWord Reviews).
I share some of those lessons with you today.
Lesson Number 1: It is a Labor of Love
We must love the person we serve, which doesn’t mean we will be perfect. Forgiveness and compassion play a huge part on this service.
Lesson Number 2: Keep a Sense of Humor
Having the capacity to laugh at ourselves, our situation, at the ridiculousness of life in spite of our circumstances, will ultimately turn us into optimistic survivors.
Lesson Number Three: A Healthy Attitude is Very Important
It is not what we face, but how we face it which at the end determines the outcome. Do we allow the challenge to destroy who we were born to be? Joyful, hopeful, strong individuals, and turn us into bitter, sad, hopeless, resentful people? Or, do we realize that we were born equipped with the strength and skills to conquer our challenges?
Lesson Number Four: Be Proactive
Ask questions, seek second and third opinions if necessary. Search the people and the resources you need. Networking, will help ease the challenge and the heartbreak.
In “ I Am My Father’s Keeper. The 10 Steps to Caring for the Elderly, “ I let you know how you can accomplish this!