Nursing Voices

Monday, October 15, 2007

Strength For Caring

I picked this book up last week at a church thrift store. The book is about a girl named Emma. She’s the girl on the cover. Emma is a caregiver. She is making sacrifices in order to care for a loved one, and unfortunately, she isn't getting a lot of support.

“Emma had given up her job in London to return home to look after her father, but that annoying Corby Kempson declared that she was wasting her time. But what did he know about it? And what business was it of his anyway?”

Since when did taking care of a loved one become a waste of time? Some people can be so insensitive to the needs of others. Life can get overwhelming for caregivers. Speaking from experience, I know that caregivers need a community in which they can find information and support.

Three years ago I was anxiously sipping on my Diet Coke when my husband’s physician walked into his office and sat down behind his desk. My mouth was dry and my hands were trembling. Something was wrong. As a nurse, I knew that doctors don’t like giving bad news over the phone, and he had insisted that we come to his office so we could talk. The doctor had a hard time looking directly at us as he talked about my husband's skewed lab tests, and abnormal EKGs. I didn’t know what he was trying to say because everything he said sounded vague and unreal. Then reality hit. The doctor informed us that my husband only had a few more months to live and he said we needed to get our affairs in order.

Nurses care for patients and their family members, and we are expected to be a tower of strength when our patient’s life is falling apart. Now my husband was the patient, and I quickly went into nurse mode after learning about his declining medical condition. I decided that I was going to take charge of everything. I thought that I was invincible. I was trained to know what to do in a crisis, and I was determined to play the role of the stoic wife and nurse. Of course, that isn’t how things worked out. I crumbled and started crying hysterically when one of my friends hugged me and offered me his condolences. My mind shut down, and I felt the energy draining out of my body. I struggled to care for my husband while working a full time job. Fortunately, I had a support system that included many educated and compassionate people, many of whom were nurses. A nurse practitioner gave me words of advice that literally saved my husband’s life. She told us to seek a second opinion about my husband’s medical condition. It sounds so simple now, but I never thought about getting a second opinion back then because I was so overwhelmed. I was lucky. Not every caregiver has a good support system in their time of need.

Caregivers can now tap into a new virtual community for help and support. Strength for Caring, created by Johnson & Johnson, is an online resource for family caregivers. The website is user friendly, and it gives caregivers the opportunity to seek help and share information with others through the use of message boards. Caregivers can also browse featured articles, as well as links to other websites that meet their specific needs. I encourage patients, caregivers, and health care providers to visit this valuable site. And please remember, caregivers need your support.


Blogger kario said...

Bravo! You are so right. I can remember so many times feeling as though I had to hold it together for my husband and my kids and as soon as he would start to feel better and I could relax, that was when I fell apart.

Thanks for the reminder!

11:46 PM  
Blogger Shrinked Immaculate said...

Beautiful and heart felt post........reminds me of the times I went through once. I think it s really the care givers whose role often gets lost in treatment and doctors and stuff,.It is often most difficult to put everything on hold and take care of a loved one, and being a doctor myself I salute them.

5:08 AM  
Blogger Nurse Stella said...

Thank you for posting this link. My elderly mother recently came to live with my husband and me. Even as a nurse, I sometimes get so overwhelmed, not so much the physical care, which right now is minimal, but the running to appointments and lab tests, errands, I no longer have any "me" time. Sometimes I just hide in the bathroom and cry.

6:11 AM  
Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

A powerful story.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Mage And George said...

Thank you. I have two friends I will forward this is a nurse whose husband just died. And then I will read it as part of the cartaking team for an old friend.

5:16 PM  
Blogger marachne said...

It's true that when you're a professional care giver, when it's your personal family, it's so easy to get pulled between the professional role and the family member role.

In terms of family caregivers (who happen to be my focus!) a really good site, been around a long time and have lots of good info and groups is the Family Caregivers Alliance:

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Nurse R. I've been reading about the nursing strike in Cali, and it made me realize just how under appreciated nurses really are these days, and I wanted to take a minute to thank you for all that you do.

I know that without the nurses when I go to the doctor/er, I'd be more scared than I already am, and I'm about to have big dental surgery. Terrified here.

Thanks again Nurse R, and for those of you who don't respect your nurses, you should be beaten down once or twice and have to have a nurse take care of you. Treat them right.

2:28 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

It's ironic that I just wrote about second opinions.
I'm glad it worked out for ya'll!

2:45 PM  
Blogger Christian Sinclair, MD said...

Thanks for the submission to Grand Rounds. This is a very good post with great resources. Caregivers provide so much unpaid health care. Someone must have done some figures on how much this unpaid labor is saving the health care system.

12:22 AM  
Blogger marachne said...

Sorry for the cross post: I relplied to Christian's comment both here and over at Pallimed where it was included in ground rounds.
His comment about how much family caregiving is worth? According to the National Family Caregiving Association--another good resource ( "The value of services family caregivers provide is estimated to be $257 billion a year." And that doesn't even figure in the cost of lost wages. (or the morbidity and mortality rates, particular for older spouses)

And now you know why my focus is family caregivers -- we keep asking more and more while providing little or no support. If they/us weren't there caring for our families, the health care system would be so overwhelmed.

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The wife/nurse/caregiver role does get old.

8:53 AM  

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