Are You a Good Caregiver?

2010 July 16

The answer to the question: “Do You Think You Are a Good Caregiver?” is almost always a resounding ‘No!’ Unfortunately, your answer has little, if anything, to do with your performance and competency as a caregiver.  A default answer of No! to the question above is important because it can lead to caregiver burnout, depression, and illness. In fact, in the book, The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions, Dr. Sternberg states, “A major component of psychological stress that promotes later physical illness is not being appreciated for one’s devoted work.” Why is it that so many caregivers feel unappreciated?

Appreciation is almost exclusively reserved for two groups: a) miracle workers (doctors and specialists) and b) patients/caregivers whose sheer will and desire to beat a disease is given credit for recovery. It’s easy to compliment medical professionals because we have evidence of their good work – they help someone beat cancer or heart disease, therefore, they must have done a good job.  And it’s no surprise that appreciation is gushed upon the Oprah-inspired success stories of patients who refuse to accept any other result other than full-fledge victory over a disease or illness.

After Oprah’s cameras are turned off and the cheering audiences go home, however, the only logical conclusion is that caregivers like you and me are on the losing team. Others won’t say that as much but after hearing heroic stories of experts who have helped patients beat the odds and overcome life-threatening diseases, there doesn’t seem to be much to say to us.  Our stories don’t make for good television because for most of us, there’s no Dr. Gregory House to save the day and teach us a lesson in the power of science and rationalism to cure all remedies.

The simple lesson is this: others’ rarely appreciate what you do because they don’t know how. It’s not that your family or friends or co-workers don’t care—they just don’t know what to say or how to articulate the quality of your care when death and love and care and illness can’t be neatly separated from one another.

The challenge for you will be to remind yourself daily that self-appreciation is not a luxury—it’s a necessity. Each day, sometime between preparing food, washing clothes, cleaning house, paying bills, running errands, and attending to your loved one night and day, you must constantly remind yourself that the goodness of your care need not be tallied up on a profit-loss sheet at the end of a business quarter.  Good caregiving isn’t about what will happen tomorrow or the day after that, or even the next week; good caregiving always occurs in the present tense.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. December 5, 2010

    Great post, I am almost 100% in agreement with you

  2. September 18, 2012

    April 5, 2011Wow! I cannot tell you how many times I have wtaned to hide behind the covers or how many situations I have faced with a pounding heart. Strangely enough, the situations that I really feared were never as bad as I thought they would be. And the situations which were really bad always took me so much by surprise that I didn’t have time to worry before acting.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS