We all know about the many obstacles in this field. We cover these topics quite a bit on CNA edge because they’re important to acknowledge. No problem was ever solved without first bringing them to light. But I don’t want to talk about that today.
We did it! Three very important words in our work. Whether it’s spoken between co-workers after surviving an impossible shift, with a resident who finally agreed to a shower after a week of failed attempts, or a client who refuses to give up her monthly beauty treatments at the mall despite the many challenges her physical condition may present, those three words have the power to renew a commitment to persevere through obstacles on the clock and off. For me, they inspire a depth of hope that I would never have known had I not landed in this field so many years ago.
The challenges we face as caregivers can be difficult to articulate to those outside the field. For me, this causes a deep loneliness on occasion. It takes an incredible amount of physical, emotional and mental energy to do our job properly.The losses take a personal toll, regardless of whether or not we admit it to ourselves. So yes, some days produce the perfect storm of loneliness when I don’t practice self-care. But I don’t want to talk about that today, either.
“He was more talkative and happy in the last two months of his life than he had been in the last two years. I don’t know what you girls did, but my family and I will be forever grateful.” …I remember that moment with crystal clear clarity. It was four years ago around Thanksgiving. One of my residents had succumbed to a long illness. We knew it was coming, but it still seemed so…sudden. I remember feeling his death so deeply that for awhile, everything seemed tinged with grey and my passion for the job was replaced with a feeling of powerlessness over doing much good in it. After all, my best effort can’t stack up against death. Those kind and genuine words from his daughter acted like a balm, soothing my bruised heart with a timely reminder of the value in our work, not just for our residents, but for their families too. It isn’t about stopping death. It’s about improving the quality of life. It’s about being a comfort when another is in pain, not ending the pain itself. It’s about walking with others, come what may.
There is much to lament and much for which to be thankful in the life of a caregiver. Today, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I am filled with gratitude. Instead of focusing on the loss of people I grow to love, I feel the joy of walking with them through the end of their journey. Instead of griping about long hours, I will hold onto the feeling of satisfaction that comes from pushing through and the knowledge that any frustration or pain that I may feel is but a drop in the bucket to the daily struggles those who have been in my care face everyday with grace and humor. I will treasure the trust they place in me, the hope that they share and the dignity they are able to maintain in undignified situations. Today, I will hold close the solidarity I feel with my fellow caregivers and I will learn from those who walk this path with me and I will not take my life for granted. A very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I hope your day will be rich with blessings and your hearts have the wisdom to recognize them. May you feel the joy that is present, in the here and now more than you feel the pain of the past or the fear of the future, if only for the day. That is the greatest gift that we, as caregivers, are granted.