This is a Guest Post by My Father
My daughter asked me to write about my experiences as a caregiver to herself and her mother. It made me contemplate for a while as I really don't consider myself a caregiver. In my heart, I am just a husband and father doing what those roles routinely require and the fact that my wife and daughter are chronically ill is just another dimension to my husband and father roles.
Cambridge Dictionary defines a caregiver as "someone who provides for the needs of people who are ill or can't provide for their own needs". So, okay, I guess I am a caregiver even though I consider my role more of that as a husband and parent. I don't consider providing health related service to my family any different than changing diapers for my daughter when she was a baby, it's just one of those things you do. My wife is fond of saying "You do what you need to do".
I also provide service for my wife and daughter beyond their illnesses wherever they need support. For example, my wife required a new car battery. I completed the task at hand as she was in need of assistance and she has a weight lifting restriction. I tend to categorize my service as things that need to be provided because I am the best source not because of their chronic illnesses. I complete certain tasks that are beyond their individual skills or abilities, it is more than I expect them to do. They are health related although I didn't consider the health portion in my willingness to complete such tasks.
A lot of routine husband and parent duties are health related but a lot are just duties that aren't necessarily required because of chronic illness and others cross categories. I complete required maintenance of our homes as well as medically required tasks such as my wife's daily eye drops, transportation to medical procedures, or picking up prescriptions. My daughter was on TPN for a while during her high school years and my wife and I were both taught how to provide care for her central line and feedings. It became a priority item in the daily routine and we tried to make it a fun activity and family bonding time rather than a time of an unwelcomed dreaded chore.
When we first realized that my wife would be facing a life time of health issues related to her Familial Polyposis and Type II Diabetes diagnoses there was concern on my part about the amount of daily time this would require of myself. In retrospect, it hasn't been much different as the extra work involved became part of being an actively involved family member. There are always things that need to be accomplished on a daily basis and the health related items fit into normal daily activities quite well. It's all part of being an active family member.
Chronic illness is a day by day process that can bring a lot of frustration, anger, depression, and angst for the patient and the family. Being the regularly healthy one in our family trio means that I need to just be a stable, dependable source for the needs that arise on any given day. It may be a comforting hug, a kind and supportive word, a ride to the ER, or taking out the trash and preparing a meal. Because my health is stable, I can provide such services as a caregiver with little burden or difficulty.
Being helpless to improve the situation, feeling guilty as the healthy individual and they aren't, being stretched and stressed can be a daily issue for a caregiver. Utilizing those healthier times to enjoy life together helps to relax and unwind, to reflect and re-group for one's physical and mental well-being is important. Being thankful daily for where you are at this time and place is a good way to quantify the caregiving role and the rewards that are received in performing service to others. Because at the end of the day, as my daughter reminds me with her request for this article: I am a caregiver and I'm honored to have such a role.