In our media crazed society we are often bombarded by those from Hollywood, the music world, and the sport’s world that are placed on a pedestal for us to admire. Sometimes they are labelled as heroes.
There is a legion of heroes who for the most part go without recognition and accolades. These are the caregivers who everyday rise to the challenges of providing care to a loved one, usually without pay, and many times jeopardizing their own health, their jobs and careers; their own personal lives put on hold.
Over the past ten years it has been my privilege to meet the caregivers who are the backbone of our ASAPs. Our mission to help people age at home if so desired is mainly realized because of the tireless toil of caregivers.
After the ravage of Alzheimer’s stripped Ray of his bride of over 60 years, he never gave up being present for her. Their love story can be summed up in his telling of Louise no longer knowing who he was and calling him by her father’s name instead. Ray declared, “Louise adored her father, so if right now she needs me to be her father, I’ll be her father.”
Ray shared his experience in a support group. It was a powerful moment and seven years later, I continue to retell Ray’s story to other caregivers.
Catherine, in her mid-80s, sat bedside with her husband Walter who was actively dying in a nursing home. She would not leave his side for over 24 hours and asked him to just make it through that last night so she could sit a spell longer and offer him words of love before letting him go.
Joe, who has been caring for his 69 year old wife who suffered a stroke 8 years ago, describes his exhaustion, sleep deprivation and forced early retirement as a result of his role as a caregiver. He acknowledged her short term memory loss in humor. “Well I can tell you one thing she hasn’t forgotten; that I don’t do anything right.”
These are the quiet hidden heroes who act from love and commitment; doing the hard work, finding ways of coping and carrying forward. These are the caregivers inspiring and enriching those who’ve experienced their dedication. These are real heroes.
Take some time to thank the many caregivers in our communities.
*North Shore Elder Services offers 4 caregiver support groups per month. There are also Options Counselors to help guide you through the maze of elder services. NSES is here to help and a call to 978-750-4540 will get you started in the right direction.