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Caregiving Relationship —An Exchange of Gifts

Caregiving Relationship —An Exchange of Gifts

Greetings one and all…

I hope you are doing well and enjoying the summer season! Another day dawns thus allowing the opportunity to reflect on the amazing journey of life. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege to attend numerous conferences as well as to present many educational programs throughout the state of Colorado. As always, I met extraordinary people at each venue and gained valuable insights into the journey of caregiving from caregivers and care receivers. Listening to the stories of people who are knee-deep in the trenches of caregiving is THE best way to truly appreciate the experience of caregiving.

Last weekend at a caregiving conference, I met Edna and Myra. We were seated at the same table for lunch. I introduced myself and asked the ladies if they were enjoying the conference—a simple prompt which resulted in a life-giving conversation.

Edna proudly informed me that she is 89 years old. She acknowledged that her aging process is proving to be somewhat challenging due to numerous physical ailments. Consequently, she uses a walker and relies on her caregiver, Myra, to a great extent. As Edna reached over to hold Myra’s hand, she disclosed that every night she thanks God for Myra in her evening prayers. “Myra is a gift. I don’t know what I would do without her. She is a godsend.” Myra was obviously touched by Edna’s words—tears welled in her eyes.

Clearing her throat and regaining her composure, Myra shared her perspective of the caregiving relationship. I learned that Myra has been caring for Edna for the past 3 years. As Edna’s caregiver, she assists with grocery shopping, errands, transportation to health care appointments, light housekeeping, and companionship. Since Edna loves attending educational events, Myra “tags along”—dealing with the logistical issues of parking, navigating the venue, etc. It was obvious that the partnership resulted in a dynamic duo!

As our conversation unfolded, I witnessed a magical moment. Myra turned to Edna and expressed her gratitude for all of the gifts she had received from Edna during their time together. Edna looked puzzled. “I haven’t given you anything, Myra. You are the one caring for me!” Shaking her head, Myra began naming all of the things Edna had given her over the past 3 years: friendship, love, respect, wisdom, laughter, joy, encouragement, a compassionate heart, priceless stories of life, a sense of purpose, and hope for the future. Timeless, intangible, sacred gifts! “Thank you Edna. You are a gift to me, and I thank God everyday for you, too!”

Edna may technically be the care receiver. However, that designation does not negate her ability to offer life-giving gifts to those who care for her. As I listened to Edna and Myra, I was reminded of the importance of remembering that caregiving is truly a process of exchanging gifts. The caregiver and the care receiver BOTH receive gifts in the process of sharing the journey of caregiving. It’s important to name the gifts received. To acknowledge the gift. To express our gratitude and appreciation for what has been offered and received. And to intentionally thank the giver of the gifts. My thanks to Edna and Myra for this life-giving reminder.      

I look forward to the ongoing conversation. If you have specific questions or concerns related to your caregiving experience, I would love to hear from you. Until the next posting, I wish you and yours countless blessings…jane  

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