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Monday, November 16, 2015

More than 60 million people in the United States care for a loved one at home.  They may be caring for a child, spouse or a parent and that care may range from minimal intervention to full-time dependent care.

Caregivers come in every age, size, gender, color, ethnicity and religious denomination.  They come willing to the table and they come kicking and screaming - some volunteering for the task, others initiated by birth. 

They laugh, they cry, they shop, they die.  They wear no uniform other than the invisible badge of skill earned from baptism by fire.  And make no mistake – though not formally trained, their skills can rival the most seasoned of veterans all acquired through hours of observation.

Weariness in their eyes, sluggishness in their step, pride in their voice, love in their touch.

The role of a caregiver is both rewarding and challenging.  Caregiving makes a difference in the quality and well-being in the life of the person being care for and, in the person doing the caring.  Balance is required, but not often achieved.  In fact, true balance is not even recognized.

Humor is necessary – in fact, it is essential; the ability to laugh till you cry or cry till you laugh.

Patient, understanding, gentle, kind.  

Perhaps the most valuable quality for a caregiver to possess is the ability to be flexible.  The ability to be and do whatever needs to be done when it needs to be done is like have a safety net under the trapeze.

While the caregiver is a treasure trove of knowledge rivalling any successful Jeopardy contestant, the one simple thing they seem to forget is to take care of them.  Putting the oxygen mask on first, though in theory makes sense, in practice is overlooked.

November, among other causes, is National Family Caregiver Awareness Month.  I have the pleasure of knowing many who give of themselves to others every day.  It is a labor of love denied many.  To my brothers and sisters of the heart…I salute you.