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Thoughts for Midlife Caregivers

July '11

Many women at midlife fill the role of caregiver. In fact, some find themselves caring for both their children (the next generation) and their elders (the previous generation). These critical caregiving roles often go unacknowledged, and are rarely honored or celebrated as achievement successes. Recently, some thoughts about the caretaking role arrived in a surprising context.

One of the joys of July in Rhode Island is the opportunity to attend the South County Woman’s Club’s “Annual Book and Author Luncheon” at the Dune’s Club in Narragansett. This irresistible event provides pleasure on so many fronts – a chance to relish books, to listen to talented writers, to enjoy the company of friends (three of us always go together), and to imbibe terrific food. (I’m a sucker for lobster salad.)

Maybe the best magnet of all is the Dune’s Club, itself. I have often heard that setting can act on the characters in a story and even serve as a character. And sure enough, this old club with its gorgeous dining room and windowed wall overlooking a long stretch of sand on the Atlantic ocean, pulls me back for this event every year. Happily, the weather always seems to cooperate, so my friends and I are able to sip iced coffee on the outdoor terrace, before slipping inside the great room for lunch.

We always meet interesting folks at our assigned table, because book lovers can easily find appealing conversation. Then over dessert, three author’s speak one after the other. It was the first speaker, David Dosa, MD, author of Making Rounds with Oscar, who brought up the topic of caregiving. You may recognize him as the geriatrician with the amazing cat (Oscar), who seems to have a sixth sense when one of the patients in the dementia unit of a nursing home is about to die.

As a geriatrician who works with the patients in this unit, Dr. Dosa provided some salient advice for their children and caretakers. First and foremost, he suggests, “You need to take care of yourself.” And therein lies the key for any woman in a caretaker role – especially a woman doing double duty with caring for both an elder and her children, or caring for an elder with dementia, or a sick child.

Pausing to even consider what it means to take care of yourself in these situations is a challenge. But you can start by taking ten minutes to ask yourself, “What are those things that are necessary to nourish me?” We each have different answers to that question, so why not stop and note five responses that you could give to this basic query. When your responsibilities are overwhelming, if you can give attention to any of those five factors, your life will come into better balance. You and everyone around you will prosper.

And may I also suggest a pat on the back and personal acknowledgement for the qualities that you are demonstrating as a caretaker like: loyalty, compassion and dare we say it, love.

Happy July,
Bonnie

P.S. For some easy summer reading, you can click on The Wisdom of Midlife Women banner on the right

2 Comments

  1. Patricia Andaloro said on July 31, 2011:

    Bonnie,
    Beautiful sentiments. I have been there and know those challenges. Love, dare I say, was my primary motivation–years later, I have no regrets for the energy I poured into the care for my mother and the needs of my husband and children and the demands of my own career.
    Happy August…
    Pat

  2. Bonnie said on July 31, 2011:

    Hi Pat,
    Thank you for your “beautiful sentiments.”
    How wonderful to have made all those choices and feel so positively about them!
    Bonnie

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