We were blessed with a wonderful speaker at our June meeting, Susan Infeld. Susan is a registered nurse in the field of Faith Community Nursing and is a member of the Pastoral Care Team at the church where we meet. Faith Community Nursing (or Parish nursing) is an American Nurses Association specialty practice just like Operation Room or Emergency Room specialities, rather than physician directed hands on clinical care. The focus is on the intentional care of the spirit, and the health of the individual and community as an extension of God’s love for his people and his mission for the Church. A Parish Nurse’s days are filled with advocacy, education, counseling, providing vetted resources and referrals. Susan’s clinical background is in ER, risk assessment for Anesthesia OR patients, hospice care and development of a corporate health nurse advocacy program.
What follows are highlights of the thought provoking program Susan led us through as we finished our discussion of take care of our caretakers.
Where do we go from here?
The initial shock: Life will never be the same.
Later (hopefully):This is not the life we imagined, but it’s the life we have. It is natural and crucial to grieve the loss of what was. The challenge for the couple: to grieve the loss together.
There are new identities to integrate into the relationship, a “ new normal”. Caregiver may initially feel totally unprepared, overwhelmed and inadequate.
The prescription for caregiver sanity:
Take it one day at a time and pray to have just enough light for the step I’m on, and not look too far down the road.
Others’ perceptions of the Caregiver:
Others can perceive caretakers as brave, loyal, sacrificial, “saints,” or selfless.
Caretakers, however, often don’t see themselves as exceptional. They may see that doing the right thing brings its own rewards. Caregiving can bring out the worst in us and the best in us. One can become a stronger, better person brimming with compassion and integrity, or one can feel like a colossal disappointment because they just cannot deal wit the challenge.
How does a couple cope with that tension? What if the relationship was unhealthy before the diagnosis?
The Caregiver experience through our lens:
Our caregiving partner’s pain isn’t physical but it still hurts. Do they need to suffer silently and alone? Sometimes the caregiver may feel invisible; life becomes all about the partner in need. There may also be a secret fear of ‘who will take care of me?’
The challenge is for the caregiver role to not become their life and rob them of their identity. However, this becomes more difficult due to struggles such as: time, energy, sadness, anxiety, finances, and changes in roles. The caregiver must deal with the unrealistic notion that you must attend to all of your spouses needs and the constant self-evaluation of their own attitude.