You Are Appreciated

September 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Rehab and Recovery

Have you ever put a lot of effort into a surprise for someone?  Have you ever so much time making someone’s day better that you couldn’t wait to see their reaction? Did their reaction contain less excitement than you expected?  For a full-time caretaker, that reaction may be one that you could face each and every day…

As the primary caretaker for a loved one, you already know that even daily events can be a lot of work.  Once upon a time, you had what seemed like an adequate amount of free time.  You had the luxury of being relaxed as you watched you participated in your activities, spent time on your hobbies and watched your TV shows.  Even with all the responsibilities you did have at the time, life often seemed like it was moving forward.  Each day you had the opportunity to get things done and feel proud of what you had accomplished.  But that was once upon a time, and now each day represents another challenge as you try to maintain your life as closely to normal as possible.  The amount of time spent managing medications, making meals, transporting to appointments and events, and cleaning everything up for your loved one has robbed you of the possibility of ever attaining the feeling of satisfaction for your own personal accomplishments.

Perhaps the worst part is how you can do so much and be appreciated so little.  Rarely if ever do you hear a “thank you” for the hours of extra mundane work you are required to do each day.  Instead, your work often elicits complaints.  Even worse are the nonverbal cues that let you know that you work is actually a hardship to the person you’re taking care of.  Frowns, sighs, refusal to make eye contact, and difficulty in accepting the food/meds/clothes that you have prepared are all manifestations of your loved one’s feelings about your effort.  Day after day you function at a level you never would have imagined you could have achieved, yet despite all your effort there seem to be projects piling up throughout your house, yard, and life in general.  As long as you are taking care of your loved one, it is unlikely that you will ever be able to satisfy your need to keep the balance sheet of your life clear.  Household projects and general housekeeping remain permanently on the back burner.

To top it all off, you do your best to ensure that your loved one’s life includes special experiences.  You don’t want them to live a life that is so boring they will inevitably hate it, so you drive them to events, make a big deal about their accomplishments, secure visits from friends and family so that they can relive memories of better days in the past.  Everyone says how great of a job you’re doing, but those complements don’t mean as much when you’re home all day completing task after task.  The look in your loved one’s eyes as you prepare their meds is one of annoyance.  The expression you are given as you help them out of the bathroom one of distain.

You may have doubts if you can handle this responsibility you have undertaken.  You have thoughts of running away from the situation and you may have even made phone calls begging people to get you out of it.  It is only human to rationalize that your work is in vain.  Your loved one might be happier in a nursing home or with a change to a new caretaker.  Unfortunately, friends and family are not a good option for you…they may not even be equipped enough to give you a single day off.  In your heart of hearts, you are aware that life would be even harder if your loved one was moved to a nursing home.  They would hate the feeling of being institutionalized and you would have to deal with the guilt of knowing they are even less happy with their life.

If you are not lucky enough to have a patient who shows that they appreciate you, I am here to tell you that what is really important is that your loved one knows that they appreciate you.  Depression often sets in for a patient with unmanageable pain.  Frustration and hopelessness are the natural consequences of a perceived lack of progress.  When their hope of a positive recovery has been crushed, it is nearly impossible for them to try their hardest during daily activities or to be on their best behavior when dealing with you.

Sometimes patients act like spoiled child;;ren.  They may demand the world and have little or no appreciation for anything that is done for them.  Mothers of spoiled children often feel  unappreciated… as even on mother’s day none of the kids do anything to make her life special.  You may feel the same way as you take care of your patient.  Even if they never actually verbalize their thanks for the mountain of time and effort you give them, just know that you are appreciated.

I know this because I am lucky enough to have a patient who still understands the effort necessary to get her through the day.  She gets the fact that it is difficult to juggle all of the ordinary daily responsibilities of keeping up house and family with the monumental task of providing her with full time that meets all her needs.  My patient is able to perceive that it would be a lot easier for me to put her needs on the back burner and get to them when time allowed.  I have a patient who has it together enough to say “thank you” and “I love you.”  She has it together enough to make sure that her husband and kids feel appreciated.

None of us are perfect and no one is able to provide perfect care.  There may be times you regret your decisions in life and in taking care of your loved one.  You may feel imperfect and fallible and their treatment of you serves to amplify your deficiencies.  Despite all of the mistakes you have made and the poor decisions that you have involved yourself in, you are doing the best that you can.  You are caring and compassionate.  You are patient and understanding.  It is hard not to get discouraged when caring with a patient who doesn’t seem to appreciate you.  Just because they don’t say it doesn’t mean that they don’t mean it.  I am here to tell you that all your hard work, patience, sacrifice, and love is appreciated.  You are appreciated.


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