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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Caregiving: A Promise We All Make When We Take Our Vows





Recently I attended a wedding where I ran into a friend who I went to nursing school with. My friend is one of the nicest people I know - always happy and vibrant. When I saw her, I went up and gave her a big hug, she did not respond as I expected. I looked at her husband, and he looked at me with a sad face and said 'she is not herself anymore'. He explained she was diagnosed with early Alzheimer's a few years ago. In talking to him, I learned her symptoms started when she began forgetting things and making mistakes at work. He also noticed slip-ups at home. Eventually, he took her to see a doctor as she was not herself. After a series of tests, the diagnosis of Alzheimer's was made.

Over time she has declined significantly and now requires full-time care and help with all of her activities of daily living. Her husband has assumed this role and stopped working to take care of her. She goes to an adult day care center during the day, but the stress of caregiving has been hard on him and his entire family.

During the Mass, I listened to the priest as he led the couple in their wedding vows; “I, take thee, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you." I realized how important those words are, especially when one of the two people become sick, and one assumes the role of the caregiver.  It is a promise we make when we say our vows before family and friends. I don't thin we really ever realize what those words really mean till we are faced with being a caregiver for a loved one. 

After the ceremony as we said our good-byes, I asked my friend if I could call him from time to time. He said he would like that, as so many of their friends have stopped calling or coming around. 

My heart was breaking as I watched them both walk to their car.

I could not stop thinking about them and how their lives have changed due to this terrible disease. I was so proud of my friend's husband for being there for his wife. You could tell by looking at him how much he loves his wife. 

The experience left me sad but with a desire to do something positive to help my friend and others who are caregivers. As I thought about it and what I could do, I recalled how important social media was for me when I was sick. Facebook helped me stay connected when I felt disconnected and lonely. Being able to go online allowed me to gained support from family and friends who would respond to messages I sent. When I felt up to it, I would respond to posts from my connections that helped me feel that I still was part of a community.

As I thought about it more and more, I decided to start a Facebook Group and called it Caring for the Caregiver. It is my hope that the site will go viral and attract caregivers who will use the site to share thoughts, experiences and support each other.

Please feel free to go onto Facebook, and join the group Caring for the Caregiver. If you know someone who is a caregiver, please encourage them to go to the page and become part of the community.


Thanks for reading Nurse Advocate! Have a good week.