The Successful CareGiver
What does it mean to be a successful CareGiver?
From the time we are young children to the time we are grow up, we are taught to measure our success by external standards. How many months did it take before you learned to walk? How many A’s did you bring home on your report card? Did your team win its division title? Did you get promoted to the top position in your department or company? How big is your paycheck, your bank account, your portfolio? How many square feet is your house? Did you graduate from a top rated school?
What do all these ‘measures of success’ have in common? They are all based on what you do in comparison to an externally defined standard.
We rarely measure our success by the way we are being as we are doing whatever we are doing.
As we fought our way up the corporate ladder, did we spend so much time at work that we had little time to be in love with our spouse or to show our children how much we love them? Did we work so hard in competing for a trophy in our favorite sport that we could not lift the trophy because of an injury we got competing?
As a CareGiver we may hold the belief that we are successful if the person we are caring for ‘gets better.’ Or if that person, the CaredFor, has a so-called incurable disease, we are successful if we kept the CaredFor from ‘suffering.’ As CareGivers , we may hold onto to many measures of success, most of which are about what we do for the CaredFor.
I contend that measuring the success of being a CareGiver is absurd. Success or failure in CareGiving only makes sense if you believe ‘death is a problem to fix.’ If you keep the person from dying, you are successful. If not, you’re not. We all die. There’s nothing we can do to prevent us from dying.
If you were to measure the success of being a CareGiver, look at how the CareGiver is being. My mother taught me the essence of being a CareGiver as I was caring for her as she succumbed to an incurable liver disease. She told at two different times, with tears streaming down her face, “Richard, I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here.”
The essence of CareGiver is being a compassionate presence.
If I were to define what it is to be a successful CareGiver, I would say it is someone who can be present to and for the CaredFor without having an agenda (wanting a cure, wanting it to be over, not wanting it to be other than the way it is). A successful CareGiver listens to what the CaredFor says and does not say.
The essence of CareGiving is to be found in being, not doing.