What's Love Got To Do With It?

What’s love got to do with your caregiving? Everything? Nothing? Love can be the shorthand we use to discuss why we become caregivers for a family member. It sounds better than duty, obligation, responsibility or guilt. For many of us it’s more than love and less than love that compels us to take an active role in taking care of a family member.

When I think back to my own experience of caring for my parents, I remember less bunnies, sunshine and roses and a lot more angst, frustration and guilt in part over acting out my angst, frustration and guilt. I’ve known many caregivers whose feelings for the person they are caring for are complicated. Let’s face it, illness and aging are not likely to make a poor relationship better. Even those who are working from love still become tired, overwhelmed and lose direction.

I hope that love inspires and guides you and I know that your relationship with your relative may not permit that. Tapping into what does guide and inspire you is critical for sustained and sustainable caregiving. Underneath it all, it’s worth exploring what motivates you to step up and provide care especially when your relationship is complicated.

Most of us would give commonsense answers to the question “Why are you caring for your relative? Things like “I live the closest”; “I’m not married”.

When you explore the question more deeply, you can connect to the more elemental reasons why you are caregiving. Here is a suggestion for looking more deeply into your caregiving commitment.

Think about a time in your life when you felt the most content, connected and fully alive. Close your eyes and travel back to that experience, as much as you can re-inhabit the feelings of that time. What did you learn about yourself, what surprised you, what delighted you? What parts of the experience had the most meaning for you? Capture your thoughts on a piece of paper. Your experience was so amazing because you were aligned with your values.

Ask yourself, how caring for your family member may contain some of those same values. What can you do to reconnect with those values if you are not feeling them in your caregiving lately?

There’s a possibility that during this exercise you may feel that what makes you feel truly connected and alive in your life is not present in your caregiving experience. Then my question to you becomes…how will you bring what you value into this experience?

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Have your caregiving responsibilities left you stressed, angry or feeling guilty?

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