What’s the point of Caregiving?

By Susan Wahlers

I’ve always loved Art and the process of creating. I enjoy getting my hands dirty from paints or mushing them into clay. Growing up, I was introduced to many different styles of Art. While some students were fantastic at realistic type paintings or drawings, I was more drawn to collage, mixed media, sculpture building, and making things from recycled goods. While these were some of my favorites, there were plenty more art styles that I did not enjoy. Perspective drawing would definitely be one of those.

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One point perspective!  Ugg.. this was so frustrating to me. If you don’t know it by description, I’m sure most of you would know it by seeing it. Imagine the road that starts out wide and then leads to the small point far off in the horizon. It’s a way of drawing something on a flat surface but yet it appears two or three dimensional. I would get so frustrated trying to get my “perspective drawings” to look realistic that I would just wad them up and throw them away more often than not. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t seem to get the “point of it”. Blah.

Now fast forward….. to my life today. I am a caretaker to my beloved husband who has Early-Onset Alzheimer’s.

The word PERSPECTIVE has a brand-new meaning to it. I no longer see it as a frustrating art form that I can’t seem to get right. Perspective to me now has become my greatest mantra and weapon that I have chosen to use to become an empowered caregiver & advocate for my husband.

“This is their reality. Realize that. Enter into it. Do not try to bring them back to yours. You will grow frustrated if you do.”

This was the single most, best piece of advice I was given early on in my husband’s diagnosis. It helped me realize that things will no longer be as they were and to set those expectations aside. To just begin to embrace what the day may offer.

I have been traveling this journey of caretaking for close to 5 years now. There have been many moments when I’m so exhausted, angry and frustrated that I have totally blown it. I’ve yelled and said terrible things I regret later. I made threats that I know I would never follow through with. Those are not my finest moments of caregiving…but hey…..we all have them, right?

Recently, I have also learned this same advice that has helped me extend grace to my husband all these years, is also helping me extend grace to myself when I get things wrong or feel overwhelmed.

This is my reality. Realize it. Enter into it. Do not try to bring things back to the way they were. You will grow frustrated if you do.

There are lots of things that have helped shift my perspective, but the single most impactful thing has been to learn to let go of expectations and just have Grace. Love people where they are for who they are. We are all made in the image of God. We all have a great capacity to love or to hate. We all have a great capacity to be cranky or kind. We all have a great capacity to speak words that build others up or tear them down. Perspective is learning to choose between the options available to us in those moments. We always have options.

There is a great proverb that reads: “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped”. - Proverbs 11:25

Little did I know that my vows I took over 28 years ago on our wedding day, “in sickness and in health” would be anything like this. Yet…. caregiving has also become my greatest privilege to show deep love for my husband as we journey down this path. We have good days and bad days, good moments and bad moments. We cry, we laugh. We are blessed.

So what’s the point of caretaking? The point may not be something you draw on a piece of paper but the more I have learned to lean my perspective towards Grace in my day to day interactions with others, my husband and myself, I have rediscovered Joy and this Joy has been the welcome companion to the grief and suffering we all have as Caregivers. May you all be abundantly blessed.