For those of you who were not able to attend our most recent SpeakSooner community education program “Being A Caregiver & Caring for Oneself: A Delicate Balance” (August 16 at the Manchester Community Library), I’d like to share a moment from that evening. As we approached the end of the Q&A session one of the attendees, a patient accompanied by her husband, raised her hand. “Can we talk about the joys of caregiving?” she asked.

Up until that point the panel, including a caregiver, primary care physician, nurse, clinical social worker and medical humanist (me), had explored the balancing act that caregivers face in addressing the needs of a loved one while trying to care for themselves. Understandably, there was much discussion about the demands on caregivers’ time and energy as well as the struggle with guilt for taking time to restore oneself. Yet, the question about the “joys of caregiving” brought Consie West, the caregiver on the panel, quickly to her feet. She reached for the microphone.

“I would love to,” she said.

“My husband was a professor who lived in his intellect his whole life until he developed dementia. He lost interest in his research. I mourned his loss. In time I came to realize I had been given a gift—a man who could finally live in the moment. We spent quiet afternoons listening to music, my reminding him of the wonderful times in our life—he loved these stories. It was a gift to my children who found a father who learned to say ‘I love you chum.’ If there were a gift in dementia, a gift in caregiving I would not have traded any of this, even the miserable moments.”

“On, one of those quiet afternoons,” she continued, – “when it was just the two of us he turned to me and asked, ‘Will you marry me? Why didn’t we ever think of this before?’ And, yes there are joys of caregiving!”

Who was it that said, we don’t remember days—we remember moments?

Consie West speaking to the  joys of caregiving
Consie West speaking to the joys of caregiving.

(5) Comments

  1. Kathleen McBeth

    The Joys of Caregiving is such a rich topic and one that could not have been expressed better than when Consie stated that it was a gift to be with someone who could live in the moment. What a wonderful comment and thank you for bringing this aspect of the process to light!!

  2. Lovely. Thanks so much, Consie. If I’d been able to attend this excellent event, I’d have added this. …………. I had a similar experience being with my husband during his final days. Roy was diagnosed with his seventh cancer (since he was 24), almost a year earlier — it was in his salivary gland — and then two months before he died, we learned that the cancer we all thought was cured had gone into his bones. In those last two months, we did a lot of remembering easier and happier times, as we cuddled a pussycat, or watched a sunset, or enjoyed the view, or watched a movie on TV. I so admired his spirit. But I guess he admired mine. A week before he went to the hospital for his final two weeks, he insisted that I wear the ring I had bought years earlier, out in New Mexico, when I was teaching there briefly. The creator of the ring was a Native American named Ted Goodluck. And I’ve had remarkable good luck ever since, getting over my own cancer, diagnosed the year after Roy died. I was declared to have had an “amazing” cure of my Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and I know that Roy was with me as I went through that illness. ………… As with Consie and Fred, I was so pleased that Roy could live in the new life that he had at the end of his life.

  3. Joe O'Donnell

    That is such a great line…..we remember moments! So true!

  4. Beth Newman

    Beautifully said; thank you!

  5. Bill Hoyt

    Nice to have those good moments to relieve the tedium and stress of caregiving. I find the best moments to be in the early AM when we first wake up just looking out the window and talking.

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