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?