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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Cudos to Caregivers

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

Those of you who read Three Thoughts for Thursday regularly know that my wife recently spent several weeks in the hospital dealing with a chronic health condition that has plagued her over the past several months. Thankfully her recovery is well under way and she continues to feel better every day.

That being said, one of the more interesting revelations that occurred to me as I walked this journey with her, is the insight I gained around what it means to be a caregiver to someone.

I’m embarrassed to admit that until my wife was hospitalized for over two-weeks I had never given much thought to the fact that I might find myself in the role of her “caregiver” someday.

Of course, throughout our married life there have been times when one of us has been under the weather and we’ve cared for each other, but those incidences have only been for a day or two at a time.

Fortunately, between the dedicated hospital staff, family members and friends, my wife and I had a great deal of assistance from individuals who are helping us with her care.

Never-the-less, this experience got me thinking differently about what I signed up for when we got married nearly 43 years ago.

A pastor friend of mine once shared that when he would perform a wedding ceremony, he knew that the couple was usually under the influence of the Novocain of Romance as they made their wedding vows to one another. He described this as follows.

When a couple makes their wedding vows they often promise to honor and obey one another in, “good times and bad; for richer or poorer; in sickness and in heath…”

My friend remarked that even though the couple says those words during the marriage ceremony, what they actual hear is, “good, richer and health”. They don’t hear, “bad, poorer and sickness”.

However, there comes in time a point in the couple’s relationship when the Novocain of Romance wears off. This could take days, weeks, months or years. It often occurs when something unexpected happens like a health issue, a job loss, difficulties conceiving children or when financial struggles take place. It’s through those unexpected events, when a couple comes face to face of the harsh realities of life, that they get to discover what’s at the foundation of their marriage relationship.

For me, getting a glimpse of what it might mean to be a long-term caregiver to my wife awakened a realization that I had heretofore not given much thought.

It reminded me and gave me a higher level of empathy for people I know who take care of a spouse who has severe dementia. Or the parents I know of who gave birth to a child who wasn’t expected to live through his first year due to several severe birth defects but just celebrated his ninth birthday. His parents now care for him around the clock, seven days a week. Or, so many of my friends who are walking through the caregiver journey as their aging parents are living longer but with an ever-diminishing quality of life.

In closing let me just share one statistic that dramatizes the significant role that caregivers play in our society.

By one account there are approximately 18 million paid, healthcare workers in our country today. However, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance there are 43.5 million caregivers who have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. Think about it, there are nearly 2.5 times the number of unpaid care givers in our country today as there are paid, healthcare professionals.


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