Friday, February 14, 2014

Ode to the Caregivers, the unsung heros

I was ashamed. After I had been whining about a page last night disrupting my sleep, I met a most amazing woman. I made a house call to see a bedbound lady this morning, Mrs. D. She has been essentially non-responsive with end stage dementia for almost 4 years. And her daughter-in-law, Denise, has been caring for her at home as they say, 24-7. Because Mrs. D is completely paralyzed, she is at high risk of developing bed sores. But for 4 years in Denise’s care, she has not had one bed sore. This could ONLY be achieved because every 2 hours day and night Denise turns Mrs. D, changes her diaper and massages her skin. EVERY 2 hours for the last 4 years. That is 17, 480 times! (Ok, maybe her husband and teenage kids have helped a few times a week, so maybe she has only done it 16,000 times.) That’s just one of the many acts of caregiving she fulfills!

The dedication to perform the physically exhausting and repetitive tasks involved in this level of caregiving is clearly the outward expression of an incredibly deep love and compassion. Denise’s husband is thankful but she doesn’t get any thanks or any response really from the patient or the patient’s other children. Don’t all of us deep down dream about being loved that unconditionally?  WOW!

The crazy thing is, there are hundreds and thousands of caregivers like Denise. They are invisible to most of the world as they are confined to their homes full time or working in institutions like nursing homes that most people try to avoid at all costs. Just as you might not think about the components of your car that keep it functioning, you likely don’t recognize the importance of these caregivers—they may not be very visible but they really are the cogs in the engine of love and life. 

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