Injecting the Empathy and Caring into Caregiving

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caregiving"How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these." -- George Washington Carver

I must confess that when it comes to providing parent care for my aging mother, and in the years before his recent death, senior help to my father, I am a novice, a nursery school student in the classroom of caregiving.

But this quote about how at some point in our lives we will be called on to be present for the young, the old, the weak and the strong, reminds me of my greatest teacher - my then preschool-aged daughter Emily. It also reminds me of the "do unto others," and how it is all of our responsibility to teach ourselves how to be our best selves in dealing with others in all these ages of life.

My "teacher" Emily taught me some of those skills. We were at a ballet performance her older sister and dance class at a nearby nursing home. During a break, Emily wandered into the hallway and into the room of a bedridden senior. Ignoring the intravenous tubes that tethered the elderly woman to her bed, Emily ducked under them, leaned into the woman, reaching her hand out to grab the woman's and introduced herself.  The smile across the woman's face will be etched on my heart forever.

Shortly afterwards, Emily "the youngest volunteer," and I visited the nursing home once a week to meet with this woman - Gretta, and others on her floor. Emily intuitively knew how to navigate the corridor, smiling, reaching out her hand or waving it in greeting and stepping into darkened rooms and up to seemingly motionless patients, people most of us adults would fear or be afraid to approach.

I remember the lessons Emily taught me as I now navigate caring for elderly adults in a more up close and personal way with my own mother. Emily taught me many things, but most importantly to reach out with compassion; to put my fears aside; to be tolerant and have patience and mostly, to care.

What are some of the surprising lessons you have learned on the caregiving front? I would love for you to share them in a post and sign up for our RSS Feed.

--Mary Beth Sammons

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