People think a lot about gifts in December. There are thoughts about what to give and thoughts about the gifts we receive. But what about those gifts that aren’t wrapped and come from an unlikely source? Some gifts are actually hard to find because they are so well hidden. Caregiving presents us with hidden gifts, and we really have to look to see them because it doesn’t usually seem as though anything positive can come from such a challenging situation. I decided to take a look at my own situation and see if I could find anything positive that has come out of it.
My first caregiving experience lasted two years and began seven years ago when my mom passed away unexpectedly. It was such a challenge! I’m pretty sure I did everything wrong. When I look back at that period, I’m actually thankful for it because it gave me the gift of time with my dad. I got to know him better than I ever had before. We had always had a good father-daughter relationship, but this deepened that. Nothing else would have ever brought us that close. If my dad had passed away first, I would never have had the opportunity to know him on a different level. That was definitely a gift worth the tears, frustration and work I experienced during that time.
I foolishly thought my caregiving days were over for a long time, but I was wrong. A couple of months later my husband was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, a possible Alzheimer’s precursor. It’s been five years since that diagnosis. During this period, the biggest gift I’ve received is the gift of friendship. I’ve made some incredible friends, most of whom I’ve never met in person. We’ve met through caregiving websites and though our caregiving situations are different, we understand each other’s situations in a way unknown to non-caregivers. We call, chat on Facebook and websites, and exchange e-mails. We point out when someone is hiding behind caregiving and using it as an excuse for not doing other things in life. These are people I would never have met if I wasn’t in a caregiving situation.
Due to caregiving I’ve discovered that maybe I have a few talents and gifts that would have otherwise gone undiscovered. I write here and blog on another website. I’ve co-authored one e-book and am working on another book. I have used the information I’ve learned about the brain to teach a class at the senior center. I reach people with early stage memory loss and their care partners through a class I teach for the Alzheimer’s Association. I speak up as an advocate for people with all types of dementia. With other people who have joined my Walk to End Alzheimer’s team, I have raised close to $10,000 over the last four years. If it wasn’t for being a caregiver, I wouldn’t have done any of these things.
I was surprised to discover how many positive things have developed as a result of caregiving. This holiday season, I hope you are able to find a least one hidden gift you have received as a result of caregiving. Take a moment to stop and appreciate the changed person you are today and be thankful that something positive is coming out of this challenging time. Remember, you are incredible!
Image Credit: DepositPhotos/@belchonock
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