Reluctant

Englishman Hugh Marriott
has written a delightful book
for family caregivers:
The Selfish Pig’s Guide to Caring.
He wrote it while being
the full-time caregiver
for his wife, Cathie,
who has Huntington’s Disease.
On the first page Hugh describes three kinds of caregivers:
those who cheerfully sacrifice time and freedom
to care for a loved one;
those who are paid to care;
and those who “have come reluctantly” to caregiving.
He says he wrote this book for the reluctant ones,
because he knows their situation—
he is one himself.

Why might someone, someone like us,
be reluctant to be a family caregiver?
Well, first of all, it can be a lot of work—
day in and day out in many cases,
not just for weeks but even years on end.
Our caregiving may require us to give up
what we would rather not give up,
including some of our life,
if not much of our life.
We may find ourselves living a life
we never planned for or wished for—
one that has been thrust upon us.
We may be forced to deal with many changes,
and one truth about human beings is that
we are hardwired to resist unwanted change.
On top of all this, we may experience reluctance
on behalf of the person in our care.
We may wish they weren’t going through
all they’re going through.
We may take no joy in how this caregiving situation
is altering the relationship between us,
perhaps taking on parental overtones.
We may regret losing closeness with friends
who don’t feel comfortable relating to us
as they once did.
What’s happening may impact our financial situation,
our living arrangements,
our larger family relationships,
the whole scope of our future.
In light of this list of circumstances, I ask:
“What family caregiver would not feel some reluctance?”
“Who would not wish that some or all of these changes
were not taking place?”
In fact, on any given day,
we may feel something even stronger.
We may be angry about all this.
We may hate what is happening.
We can experience such feelings
and still deeply love and conscientiously care for
this other person with whom we’re paired.
So I’d say it’s normal to come reluctantly to any prospect
of family caregiving that entails inconvenient changes
or has long-term consequences.
Even more, I’d say it’s a good sign,
showing that we have plenty we want to do in life
in addition to being a thoughtful caregiver.

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