Enduring Love

One of the greatest honours I have in my position at Warm Embrace Elder Care, is to witness the lives of our incredible clients, and to be invited into their lives at such an important moment.  I am frequently astounded at all the challenges my elderly clients have overcome, and their subsequent life view.

Witnessing love that has developed over a 65 year marriage is phenomenal. I recently met a couple who is in their mid-eighties and is approaching their 66th wedding anniversary.  I marveled at the feat and asked how they had initially met.

 


 

She was 19 and he was 22 years old.  He arrived late to a dance, and just as he was arriving, she was packing up to leave.  He thought she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, and he overcame his usual shyness and requested a dance with her.  She conceded, and they danced the night away.  Sixty-five years later, that couple is still waltzing through life together.


How incredible!  As very young adults, they were attracted to each other, and then created love out of that union.  The gentleman told me that: “she was so beautiful that I thought I loved her. I didn’t even know what love was yet! It is now that I truly love her.  I love her more and more each year.”

 

To be in the presence of such enduring love, such dedication and loyalty, is truly humbling.  In today’s world, young people in their late teens and early twenties feel they don’t know themselves yet, much less have the ability to truly know someone else.  Today’s young generation wait to “fall” in love and find a “perfect” partner.  The generation that married 65 years ago had a totally different approach.  They found a partner with whom they could connect, and they determined to create love and create a life together.  Quitting wasn’t an option; when trouble arose, they faced it together and created a solution.

 

The couple was curious about my fascination with their 65-year marriage. They don’t  view it as being extraordinary in anyway; I was clearly impressed.  I explained how there are entire sections of bookstores dedicated to self-help guidance on relationships, love, and marriage.  They guffawed and thought that was ridiculous; then the woman said: “I’m not saying it was always easy.  It wasn’t.  We had our troubles just like anyone else.  But we made a promise to each other, and we’re people who keep our word. So when it got tough, we just decided to keep going and wait for the feeling of love to return.  Sure enough, it did!”  I teased her that with advice as simple and straightforward as that, she might put the relationship section of the bookstore out of business!

 

These two marvelous people are so interconnected that they almost operate as one.  They’re beyond finishing each other’s sentences; it seems they sometimes communicate without even saying a word! 

They know each other’s likes and dislikes right down to the correct teaspoon served with afternoon tea.  They can only recollect being apart for a handful of nights their entire marriage. 
 
Now, life has become just a little more challenging, and living together at home requires some assistance.  What an honour it is for us to provide the caregiving this couple needs to remain at home together. 
I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for this couple to be split up if one person were sent to a nursing home and the other remained at home. They can’t even fathom it!  Thank goodness home care allows them to remain together, and allows their touching love story to continue.

They tell me that this is the final chapter of their love story.  With all the adversity this couple has faced and survived, I wouldn’t be surprised if they celebrated their 70th and 75th wedding anniversaries!  I’m so privileged to witness and be inspired by this enduring love. 

If you have a story of Enduring Love, please share it with us!  We love to hear inspiring love stories!
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Reasons Why Family Caregiving Does NOT Work

Family caregiving is an honourable endeavour and can be intensely meaningful and fulfilling.  But not all families are the same, and there are situations where family caregiving for an elderly parent or relative may not be suitable. In some situations, attempting to be a family caregiver can actually cause more upset to the overall family than enlisting external help.  

 

Here is a top 5 list of reasons where family caregiving may cause more strife than benefit.

 

 

1. Siblings rivalry was never outgrown

Do you still squabble with your siblings as much as you did when you were children?  Family caregiving can be challenging in and of itself; add sibling rivalry and the emotional toll just jumped to a whole new level. Siblings who exert more effort competing than cooperating will not likely set their personal issues aside and be completely agreeable over care for mom or dad.

 

When there are long-standing sibling rivalry issues it often ends up feeling as if you can’t do anything right. No matter which action you take, it is misinterpreted by your siblings. You provide hands-on care, it is criticized; you step back to allow your siblings the opportunity to participate, and you’re labelled as “uninvolved” or “being selfish”. With dynamics like this at play, involved family caregiving likely won’t heal sibling wounds. Rather, there is a great risk that the sibling divide deepens.

 

In family caregiving, the recipient of care—your elderly parent or grandparent—needs to be the focus. Sibling rivalry can’t continue to be the main issue at hand. Out of fairness to your elderly loved ones, you may want to enlist external support so that long-standing sibling rivalries don’t rear again over family care.

 

2. Your parent is intensely private or modest

Every family has different comfort levels around privacy and personal care. For someone who was intensely private and modest her entire life, she may find it terribly uncomfortable to have family or friends assist with personal care, such as bathing or toileting. An elderly mother may not wish to have her sons bathing her—and her sons are often even more uncomfortable with personal care than is she!

 

For these families, the kindest option is to have someone else provide personal care—someone who was not previously known to the elderly mother. This way, she can maintain her dignity and privacy in front of her sons, her daughters-in-law, and her friends. Receiving support from a caregiver whose role it is to provide personal care is exceedingly different than forgoing privacy and modesty in front of family and friends. It is less about gender and more about personal preference and maintaining dignity.

 

The role reversal between parents and children is a complex issue that is deeply personal. It is challenging enough when adult children are suddenly managing schedules and household needs; crossing into the realm of personal care can exacerbate the role reversal.

 

3. Personality Clashes

Let’s face it—most families are not like the Brady Bunch. Not everyone gets along, and there are decades of history by the time caregiving for elderly family members arises. The elderly grandfather who suddenly needs assistance does not develop a new personality just because he suddenly requires care. If he was ornery his whole life, it is likely he will be ornery in his senior years too!

 

If he burned bridges with various family members in the past, it may be unrealistic to expect family members to set aside their grudges and hurt and begin family caregiving for Grandpa. In addition to past hurts that may be resurrected, those same family members are now exposed to a whole new host of potential personal insults. Grandpa is also less likely to be a gracious recipient of care from family members with whom he is accustomed to being ornery. There is a better chance that Grandpa will actually be kinder and more satisfied receiving care from someone outside the family.

 

It may just be that parent and child have two different personalities or styles that clash in a caregiving situation. Perhaps an elderly father prefers to be very detailed, slow and meticulous, doing things in the particular way that he has always done. His adult daughter—who loves him dearly and is trying so hard to help—is fighting her natural tendency toward efficiency. She wants to accomplish tasks quickly since she is already torn between her demanding career and her own family waiting for her at home.

 

The father and daughter have different styles and different personality types—something that may have been complimentary at other stages in life. But when it comes to caregiving and ensuring that her father has the quality of life that he prefers at whatever pace is comfortable to him, his daughter would be well-advised to step back and allow a professional caregiver to assist her father in the way he needs.

 

4. You're just not a caregiver at heart

Truth be told, you’re just not the caregiving type. We can’t all be good at everything; being compassionate, gentle and patient just aren’t your top strengths. There’s a reason you didn’t become a nurse or an activities director at a retirement home. You know your strength, and it isn’t caregiving.

 

There’s no shame in acknowledging that you’re just not the right person for the job. Your strengths can be utilized in other ways to support your elderly loved one.  when it comes to personal care and more intimate needs, you would be wise to enlist the support of someone who is particularly compassionate, gentle and patient for the sake of your elderly loved one. They deserve the best and a trained caregiver can provide what you cannot.

 

5. You don't live locally 

Today’s families are more spread out geographically than ever before. Family members may be time zones apart, and visiting regularly just isn’t possible. When you do visit, you stay for a week at a time and try to get everything mom needs, but you’ve noticed that each time you visit, she needs a little more than last time. You feel bad that she’s on her own between your visits, and you worry about her more and more all the time.

 

It’s more than just stocking up on groceries and running errands. You want to know that mom has a reliable caregiver to accompany her to appointments since doctor’s appointments cannot always wait until you’re in town. You want the best for your mother. She deserves consistent care that isn’t dependent upon your work schedule. You also want the peace of mind that someone is checking in on your mom, even when you are not in town.

 

If your family fits into any of these 5 categories, then family caregiving may not be advised.  Family caregiving is highly stressful and involved in the best of situations, but if you add any of the above five elements, you may want to enlist some additional care for your ageing loved ones. 

 

It’s okay to admit that your family is better suited to enlisting caregiver support from outside the family. Doing so maybe just the thing your family needs to keep everyone sane and happy!

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