Not too long ago, I was asked to write an article about caregivers for the Nation on Sunday’s Everywoman. In writing it, I was touched by how much dedication, commitment and perseverance and utmost love that caregivers provide. Wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins and on occasion men. Nurses and doctors are also extremely helpful and supportive, their efforts, should also be applauded, nothing can ever prepare you for having a loved one in your home suffering from a chronic illness.
It is a hard thing, seeing someone you care about so deeply experience an illness which could ultimately result in death. Seeing them slowly disappear in front you and sometimes no matter what you do, it makes very little difference. Even harder yet is caring for someone who has given up.
To all the people who have put their heart, soul, spent their last tambala and opened their homes to someone with HIV, thank you. This fight would not be the same without you. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed.
The focus of family members and friends is often the patient, overlooking the time, devotion and effort of the person who cooks, cleans, feeds, dresses, bathes, prays with, administers medication, acts as a friendly companion, takes the person to hospital, sits by their bedside.
They frequently make great sacrifices to provide care for their loved ones, sometimes to the detriment of their own health and well being. Depression, tiredness, withdrawal from social life, feelings of helplessness, frustration and changes in eating are signs of caregiver burnout. If ever you do feel like this, reach out for help from other family members. It is important for the caregiver to also take care of their health otherwise they will be in no position to provide care.
Family members and close friends are also important in the care and support team. Celebrating health improvements encourages the patient, regular visits and helping the caregiver reassures the person who is unwell that they are wanted, needed, important and most of all loved.
Being a family caregiver can also be quite a rewarding experience. Spending precious moments with a loved one, finding out how resilient and resourceful you are and also learning about HIV and Aids management. And finally….seeing your loved one through to recovery is a very beautiful and fulfilling experience.
This is dedicated to caregivers:
Thank you for never giving up and for giving when you feel there is nothing left to give. Thank you for all the love, kindness, hope, comfort and dignity you give to those you care for. It is your strength and caring that make a difference, for without you their lives would be unbearable. You bring joy to their world and you comfort them in a way no one else can.” (adapted from Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and LeAnn Thieman.)