I've been thinking about caregivers ever since Steve and I had lunch with two other couples. Out of the six of us, four people had need of a spouse as a caregiver.
As far as I can tell, there are two categories of caregivers. There are those who care for someone who has a life-long disability that is not life-threatening. These are people who are charged with meeting the needs of someone with severe autism, cerebral palsy, blindness etc. The second group that I'll focus on are those who support a person who has a life-threatening illness or disease.
My perception of those in the first category are caregivers with character traits such as patience, positive outlook, and resourcefulness. They often turn to groups that can offer support either mentally or financially. And they are constantly looking for the latest in technology that will help, or medical breakthroughs or clinical trials. The caregivers lovingly devote much of their lives to helping the person in their charge.
Caregivers that fall in the second category also have to exhibit a positive and hopeful outlook (at least for the sake of the patient), have resourcefulness in looking for medical advances, clinical trials and the best medical facilities. Sometimes their own needs take a back seat to the patient, based on a need basis. The knee replacement can wait, but the chemo or radiation can't wait.
Our older daughter describes my caregiver experience as that of a "sandwich caregiver". I was the main caregiver for my mother with dementia and at the same time, we were caring for our younger daughter Lisa. I was constantly feeling that I needed to spend time with the two of them and try to meet their needs. It was always great when Lisa would come home and the whole family, including our older daughter and my husband, could be together. I didn't feel so stretched.
So I give a hearty salute to those who are caregivers, past, present and future. You are doing a great service to your loved one and your whole family. I sincerely hope that those around you recognize and acknowledge how giving you truly are. You are very special!