2. Choose acceptance
Simplicity and acceptance of our life’s situation are
other things that still create joy in my life because I actively
choose those options daily. An example of this simplicity:
giving John only the pieces of silverware he needs instead
of following formal table setting guidelines. I also do not
look back at our life before his stroke — I accept where my
path is now. The choice I make to live with simplicity and
accept the paradigm shift of John’s diminished capacities is
what releases the weight of being a caregiver that is ever on
my shoulders. The lifting of this pressure makes my tasks
light each day. I have less fatigue; I can live in joy. There is
peace and love in our home.
3. Live with gratitude
Other people are not aware of the long-term difficulty
of moving a person in a wheelchair for perhaps years. They
may try to be polite and hold a door, or ask if you need
help. The lesson I learned from their politeness is to make
sure that I remember to say “Thank you” to the door person.
It is more than the simple thank you it may appear to be. I
turn their assistance into an opportunity for me to practice
gratitude as a way of life. For me, living in gratitude daily is
what keeps my attitude healthy and my burdens light.
My joy in being a caregiver comes from those three
important lessons. I take action to find solutions, I make
a conscious choice about how I react to all situations,
and I opt to live in gratitude each day. I call it A.C.G.
(Action Choice Gratitude). These letters are posted on a
sticky note on my desk as a constant reminder of how to
live joyfully each day. Since I pay attention to all three
of them, I truly do allow these guidelines to be a part
of my daily routine. Because I practice A.C.G. like a
good musician practices their instrument, each day it is
easier to follow this path. Over the years, this continual
process has become ingrained in my personality. It is
part of who I am. It is my purpose to live this way.
There is one other rule I consider crucial for all of
us—not just those of us who are in caregiving roles. That
rule is: “Take care of yourself first, so you can take care
of others.” This rule is especially important for caregivers
to follow because our caregiving duties can lead to severe
fatigue. It is important to stay rested mentally, physically
and emotionally so that one can follow the A.C.G. method
of remaining joyful. It is all about being well enough as a
caregiver to allow your brain to remain healed and alert to
one’s own thoughts, feelings and actions throughout the day.
Following this rule means creating opportunities for
respite for yourself. This respite can take the form of
an afternoon off at a museum, a vacation without your
survivor or merely hiring someone to do your caregiving
tasks for a day. In reality, respite is doing whatever you
enjoy solely, without your patient. In my own journey as
a caregiver, it took me a long time to learn the true value
of respite. It was almost three years before I realized
I had to stop what I was doing, get away and allow
myself to heal. Another part of getting away, of course,
was creating a plan for John’s care while I was away.
For me, living in
gratitude daily is
what keeps my
attitude healthy and
my burdens light.
Caregiver Nancy Weckwerth; below: Nancy and John in 1985