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The Caregiver's Cairn: What Does It Mean?

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Blog by Jane Barton

Greetings one and all...

Welcome back to The Caregiver’s Cairn - a sustaining and empowering guide for caregivers and care receivers. I hope you and yours have enjoyed a lovely month since my last posting. Once again, I invite you to pour a cup of coffee or hot tea, curl up in a cozy chair, and take a deep breath. Today, I want to chat about how we understand the journey of caregiving - the meaning of illness and aging.

According to Viktor Frankl (a twentieth century psychiatrist and author of Man’s Search for Meaning), the search for meaning is the driving force for humanity. We desperately want to understand the big questions of life. What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of death? Why are we here? Most of us are prompted to examine these fundamental questions during the times that try our souls - the difficult and perplexing times. Makes sense, right? There is little reason to question life when things are running smoothly. However, when life presents distressing change and transitions, we struggle with undeserved suffering and inexplicable loss. We long to understand. We desperately want to know why! This is certainly true when confronted by the daunting challenges associated with serious illness and aging.

As caregivers and care receivers, it’s important to recognize the meaning we attribute to illness and aging. Is illness a punishment for past sins? Biological fluke? Luck of the draw? Test of faith? Is aging a journey to be embraced or rebuffed? Our answers to these questions help to explain our reactions and responses to the challenges of illness and aging. Anger? Resignation? Fear? Resentment? Acceptance? Likewise, our reactions reveal our understanding of illness and aging - the meaning. It’s important to remember that every one “sees” life uniquely. Hence, within our families, each person understands and responds uniquely when challenged by illness and aging.

The realization that illness and aging mean different things to different people facilitates the journey of caregiving for all involved. We can anticipate a variety of opinions, perspectives, and reactions based upon different understandings of the situation. Caregivers and care receivers will experience moments of harmony as well as dissonance. It’s just the nature of the journey. However, if we can honor and respect all perspectives by first seeking to understand, we have the opportunity to work collaboratively as we care for our loved ones. A good thing indeed.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at coaarp@aarp.org and we will be in touch soon!

 

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