Monday, October 20, 2008

Caregiving: Love, Hatred, Guilt, Joy, Resignation (Video 4:10 mins.)

A caregiver’s role can be a complicated potpourri of love, hatred, guilt, joy and resignation. During my years as a hospice volunteer, I have met caregivers who served in that role for a variety of reasons. These are three examples from my book “Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes.”

1) “We held a family meeting when Mom and Pops continued to deteriorate healthwise. They had reached the stage where they couldn’t live alone any longer. Mom almost burned the house down, and Pops started roaming all over the neighborhood asking people where he lived. At the meeting, everybody had reasons why they couldn’t be primary caregivers. They either lived out of town or had other obligations they said interfered. Several of them mentioned that I lived in town and didn’t have as many responsibilities as they did. I don’t know how they could make assumptions like that about what’s going on in my life. I don’t tell them most of my personal business. Anyway, I finally agreed to be the primary caregiver, but only if they would all make a written commitment with me. We made a list of what everybody would do to help on a regular basis. I can truthfully say they all are doing what they promised, including contributing money to our parents’ care. Knowing I can always count on them helps me a lot and makes my parents proud of the way we are handling things.”

2) “If you look at who’s taking care of my daddy now, you wouldn’t know he had three other children besides me. The others hardly do anything for him, and I’m always asking them to help out. Before you start thinking he was a bad father when we were growing up, let me tell you he wasn’t. If you want to know the truth, he was too good to us. My trifling sisters and brothers just took him for granted. Now, they know Daddy is confused with Alzheimer’s disease, so they use that as another excuse not to come see him. They figure he won’t miss them. My siblings are a disgrace. Everything is on me.”

3) “My mother was the kind of person who never should have had children. She was into drugs and the fast life for as long as I can remember. As a child, I prayed for her to change, but she never did. She left us alone a lot, even at night. Finally, my grandmother stepped up and raised my sisters and me. Bless her soul, she died six years ago. We made sure she didn’t want for anything. Now, my mother’s dying, and I’m the only one who will come see about her. My sisters say she’s getting what she deserves for all those years she chose dope over us. I don’t judge them because I know how they feel. I’m still angry with her myself, but I come see about her anyway. I guess I want to be a better person than she is.”

© Frances Shani Parker

Most people don’t set out to become caregivers. Some enjoy nurturing their patients and find the caregiving experience challenging, but rewarding. Few people talk about caregivers who feel depressed, guilty, trapped in a hole with no way out, except the death of persons in their care. For an encouraging visual reminder about caregiving, I refer you to this video “Remember Me,” which is from the perspective of a patient in need of care.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
“Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog”


  1. I thought I was all out of tears until I watched this video. It brings home the importance of being there for our loved ones when they are most in need. Caregiving can certainly be a frustrating occupation, but it does have its rewards. Thanks, again, for a heartwarming look at reality.

  2. Thanks for writing, Renee. Glad I could help.