When I began my journey as a caregiver I had people asking me how I could do such a thing, that they would never be able to do that. They wanted to know how I could stand to see to the most personal needs of my father and then grandfather. They couldn’t understand how I could find the compassion and patience to spend 30 to 45 minutes feeding my dad four or five times a day.
The simple answer is they’re family and that’s what family does. The deeper explanation is, they did it for me. From the time I was born my family has been there caring for me. THEY changed my diapers. THEY fed me. THEY dressed me. THEY bathed me. I spit up and threw up on THEM. I bled on THEM. When I cried THEY comforted me. THEY taught me, loved me and encouraged me. How can I not reciprocate when THEIR time of need comes?
To that people will often concede the point but now that I have lost both Dad and Grandpa they ask why I continue to do this for strangers.
The honest truth is two-fold. First of all, once I meet the people I am charged with providing care for they are no longer strangers. They become surrogate family members. I care for who they are as a person. I try to learn about who they are, what makes them happy and how to encourage them. They often have as much of a positive influence on my life as I hopefully have on theirs.
Second, I think of all the people outside of my family who had an impact on who I am today … teachers, neighbors, family friends, camp counselors, clergy, and random strangers providing random acts of kindness. Most of these people are no longer in my life, but each of the people I care for were the teachers, neighbors, family friend, camp counselor, clergy or random stranger providing random acts of kindness for someone else. So in my mind, in some odd concept of karma or whatever way you’d put it, I am returning the favor to a stranger in hopes that someone else is doing the same for those non-family members who had a positive influence on my life.
I have another reason for doing what I do. I have seven wonderful nephews and four awesome nieces. I believe the best way to show the future generation how to be compassionate, active, caring adults is by example. I hope that by demonstrating to them how we should care for our family and strangers that I will have done my part to make the future just that much brighter.
So, to answer the question “How can I do something like what I do?”
I do it joyfully with hope, compassion and love.