The Dirty Secret Behind Caregiving

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by Ray Burow |

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Do you know the dirty little secret of caregiving?

Here it is: No one loves it. None of us like to admit how much of a struggle it is, because it makes us sound like bad people. But caregivers who hate caregiving aren’t bad, just honest.

Allow me to quickly add that while the majority of caregivers don’t love the job, most embrace it, and that’s not an oxymoron.

The paradox

It’s a rare person who claims to love caregiving — that is, the actual work involved. Who would? From a labor perspective, caregiving is plain hard, and providing care for someone you love who has Alzheimer’s disease is especially difficult.

Unless you’re knee deep in caregiving responsibilities, day turning to dusk, looking out into the dark night, and wondering where the day went, you couldn’t imagine how arduous caregiving really is. Caregivers, finding themselves spent physically, mentally, and emotionally, get up each morning (if they go to bed at all) and do it all over again.

Why do they do it?

Caregivers don’t choose caregiving, but it chooses them. There are more than 40 million unpaid caregivers in the United States, the majority of whom provide care for a family member.

Nine out of 10 unpaid caregivers look out for an aging relative, often a parent or sometimes a spouse. Nearly a quarter of caregivers provide care for two people, perhaps both parents and another aging relative, and 7% help three or more individuals.

Significantly, one in five caregivers provide care daily, and one-third have had someone under their watchful eye for five years or more.

Don’t misunderstand

Caregivers still have a choice. Caregivers choose to care for a loved one, not out of duty, though that’s not a bad reason, but because they are committed to the person they love. They are willing to go the distance, to wade through the depths of Alzheimer’s and other debilitating diseases alongside a spouse, parent, or sibling.

Yes, the day-to-day can be grueling, but most familial caregivers wouldn’t go back. Well, yes, they’d go back if their loved one could be made whole again, but that being impossible, they’ll commit themselves to the care and comfort of the person they love.

Familial caregivers don’t find it a contradiction to embrace caregiving and hate it at the same time. Perhaps “hate” is too strong of a word, but it’s certainly OK to admit that no one loves caregiving. We don’t love the loss it represents and could do without the chores it generates, but embracing the chance to demonstrate love through caregiving is well within a caregiver’s wheelhouse.

The person for whom care is provided is not the burden, as so many fear they are or will become. Separating the tasks of caring, which are burdensome, from the person and the load becomes much easier. Bearable.

To quote a great philosopher from a generation ago: “The road is long/ … But I’m strong/ Strong enough to carry him/ He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

Or, as the case may be, my mother, father, sister, spouse … you fill in the blank.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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