At tonight’s Parkinson’s Support Group, one Volunteer got a taste of what it is like for her husband with Parkinson’s.  The Physical Therapist speaking to the group had her stand on some foam rubber and try to stand on one foot, then stand with her eyes closed.  She struggled to keep from falling.  She would have, had the Therapist not caught her.  The therapist then asked, how would you like to spend every waking moment struggling to deal with that kind of disability.  The therapist was addressing the Caregivers present.

I had two reactions: one was a feeling of guilt because I too often with impatience push Mary Ann to move more quickly doing whatever it is; the other was irritation that the terribly difficult task of the Caregivers was not acknowledged and appreciated.

The reality is that both reactions are valid.  All of us who are full time Caregivers lose patience and forget that those for whom we are caring can’t do the most basic things without great difficulty.  That they manage to do what they do is a testament to their courage and determination.

Caregivers have the impossible task of trying to anticipate the needs of another person who may not be able to verbalize those needs.  Then the Caregiver must put those needs ahead of his/her needs no matter how small or great they may be.  Caregivers also suffer from the whatever the disease their Loved One has.

I guess the only solution is to learn how to live in the tension between those two realities.  Forgetting just how difficult life is for someone with Parkinson’s or any chronic debilitating disease generates bitterness and frustration.  Denying the overwelming and draining task of being the arms and legs of another person as their Caregivers diminishes the ability to cope and find any joy in life.

It helped me to be reminded tonight of what Mary Ann is going through.  Better understanding of her plight makes it easier to treat our daily challenges as obstacles that need to be overcome, rather than relationship issues between us.  We are in this together.  We need all our intellectual, emotional, psychological and Spiritual resources to meet and defeat the real enemy, the Parkinson’s and its consequences.

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