Heroism

“It’s really amazing
all she does
as a caregiver!
Her efforts
are heroic.”
Have you ever heard
comments like this before?
I have, a number of times.
A loyal wife quits her job to provide
around-the-clock care for her husband.
A retired man pushes his limits,
refusing to let anyone help him,
as he cares for his increasingly combative wife
who’s debilitated by Alzheimer’s disease.
“That’s heroism in action,”
people say in praise.
Without question, all around us
are everyday caregivers who are also
everyday heroes.
Such people deserve our respect and support.
But I fear a danger can lie
in labeling such behavior “heroic.”
When caregivers disregard their own health,
becoming so ill they can no longer provide
quality care, or any care at all,
is that ultimately heroic?
When caregivers neglect families
or sever ties with close friends,
creating barriers while isolating themselves,
is that heroic?
When caregivers refuse others’ assistance,
especially when their care receiver would benefit,
is that really heroic?
I propose that we rethink our idea
of what constitutes heroic caregiving.
I think truly heroic caregivers find ways—
however challenging this may be—
to watch out for their own health no less
than for the one in their care.
I believe true heroism can be shown
when other relationships are simultaneously honored,
other roles are lovingly preserved.
I propose that caregiver heroes
are those who honor their own needs
over the course of time,
protecting their own wholeness and well-being.
I believe the gloriously heroic
is within reach of all caregivers.
It requires not so much superhuman effort
but very human wisdom and understanding,
for oneself as well as for others.

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One Response to “Heroism”

  1. Susan Says:

    Excellent point, although not a popular one. Sincerely, Susan

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