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Emotions Of Caregiving

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There’s been some time to think about the last nine months while taking on the role of primary caregiver to my dad (and mom, at times) and I’m recalling many instances of emotional intelligence along the way. I believe sharing experiences about how emotionally intelligent people are is as awesome to me as someone who has a great deal of intellect. I’ve been learning that it’s how we handle our emotions that really make us look, think, and feel smart and capable. By that I mean, it’s how we cope with our emotions every single day, such as: Maintaining, learning, growing, understanding, asserting, and most of all, exhibiting patience and tolerance.

The emotions of taking care of people, whether you know them as family, friend, or patient, have many wears and tears. Thank goodness there are people who choose to care for others as a career path! These are the people who are tender and caring toward their patients. They are the folks who bathe people who cannot do so, speak to their patients with respect and they help family members and take the time to share their knowledge. Many have four or five patients to take care of in a day’s work. Because my dad is now in hospice care, we have been getting to know these caregivers on a different level – at the home, which is where most people want to be taken care of and where I think caregivers do their best work. This is the environment that is most suited to patients like my dad. He’s managed to stay with us and he thinks he can celebrate his 90th birthday in August. We hope he can too

When the hospice caregivers started taking care of my father, I asked the few we’ve met so far, “Why did you choose this path as a career?” Here are some of their responses:

  • “Because I was taught at an early age to care for the elderly and it stuck…I have compassion for people, especially ones who cannot take care of themselves.”
  • “My mom was a nurse and she was a good model for this kind of work, so I went for it and it turned out to be a good decision.”
  • “Nursing care is a good job for me because I love people and love to help any way I can when people are sick…makes me feel like I’m giving back while earning a living at the same time.”
  • “One has to be cut-out for this kind of work and at first I didn’t know if I could do it, but when I took my first vacation from working as a care-giver, I found that I missed the people I was taking care of and decided then and there it was the right job for me.”

When I asked: How do you cope with this kind of work...these are the responses I got:

  • “I guess I’m lucky that I can cope with the frailties of people and I’ve wanted to be a nurse or help others heal since I was 3 years old.”
  • “At first I had trouble coping with all the suffering and sicknesses and took time off from working in the field, but as I experienced other jobs and got a bit wiser about my choices, I went back to try it again. I was ready the second time around after 20 years of trying other things…I can cope much better in my older age and I’m a better person for it today.”
  • “I love being a nurse to babies and making the leap to the elderly isn’t much different. Both age groups need us and I love my job because I feel like I can make a positive contribution to humanity. I’m very spiritual and this work keeps me humble and gives me peace.”
  • “I think this work is my calling in life because I don’t seem to have the emotions of burn-out that others may have…of course, I do get tired and I try to balance my work and life accordingly and that means making sure priorities get done and I take time to have fun with family and friends!”
  • “I have a wonderful support system going on in my life and that keeps me sane. I’ve also had many wonderful models to guide me through those tough times and for that I am grateful.”

Needless to say, I am very impressed with the people I’ve met in this line of work and have learned many things myself as a result. I really wanted to share some of the (what I call) “Saints” in the care-giving world of medicine. Kudos to all of you caregivers out there…we couldn’t do it without you!!

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Lorraine Twombly
Priority Learning



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