“I don’t think I will have the patience to be a caregiver,” is a common refrain from individuals faced with the potential for having to move into the role of a caregiver from that of spouse or son or daughter. Personally, I’ve seen it associated more with a diagnosis of some form of dementia or other slower, but progressive diseases. For the potential caregiver and the individual with the disease, their future just changed drastically. What is there to look forward to? How can they ever find the patience needed?
Everyone is different. I’ve seen caregivers on either end of the spectrum. There are caregivers who take on the role of caregiver as a badge of honor or courage. They are reluctant to ask for any help and possibly over-protect their loved one. Then, there are those like my late mother-in-law who was just angry and thought her husband, who had dementia, was just acting like that to make her mad. She wanted no parts of it.
There is a middle ground. A caregiver doesn’t have to have the patience of a saint. But, a caregiver does need to face the reality of the situation and see that the needs of their loved one are met.
I have always liked the difference between being responsible “for” versus responsible “to.” We can’t be responsible for people’s happiness, health or total well-being. We can, though, be responsible to see that our loved one’s needs are being met, to ensure the safety as best we can of our loved one, and to be kind. There is a responsibility to ourselves that is equally important — to see that our own needs are being met. Just as we aren’t responsible for our loved ones well-being and happiness, neither is our loved one and their disease responsible for our unhappiness.
If caregivers focus on the responsibilities to their loved one and themselves, they are often surprised at how much patience, and happiness, they can find.