Finding Gratefulness as a Caregiver

Guest post by Carol Zernial, Executive Director of the WellMed Charitable Foundation and Guest blog post by Carol Zernial, Executive Director of WellMed Charitable Foundation. The WellMed Charitable Foundation supports seniors and their caregivers in our community with a special emphasis on wellness, prevention, and living with chronic illness. Learn more at www.wellmedcharitablefoundation.org.

Perhaps it’s because I’m thinking of summer holidays, picnics, freedom and sunshine that I’m feeling pretty thankful. One book that ranks people’s moods lists “gratitude” as the highest of all moods. The author, Larry Senn, states, “There is a calmness and warmth that comes with gratitude that overrides sadness, impatience, irritation and anger.”

The real reason that I’m feeling thankful today is that I am a caregiver.

Being a caregiver means that people in my family have lived long enough that I have the privilege of doing something for them to repay the many things they have done for me. They sat at the foot of my bed when I was little so that I could fall asleep without spiders, snakes, or monsters getting me. They gave me great advice that I now hear myself repeating to my son. They gave me birthday gifts, Christmas presents, graduation gifts and a little gas money along the way to send me off into the world. They told me the things I did were wonderful, important, and special. They made a difference in my life.

Last week, I picked up some barbeque at the airport to take home to my parents. When I told the guy behind the counter what I was doing, he shook his head and told me that he wished he could take dinner to his parents. They hadn’t lived to be very old and he’d love the opportunity to take them dinner one more time.

Living as a grateful caregiver helps me to see my loved ones underneath the illness. It helps me to bring energy to my caregiving tasks that comes from a positive place. It actually brings me into the current moment, the now, rather than looking at how long the road might be ahead of me.

Staying positive and thankful doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes we really have to focus on positive thoughts very deliberately before we can internalize them, and they come more naturally. That’s okay. It can take practice. We may have to practice being thankful for many things in our lives, looking at the bigger picture of all of our blessings. I am always humbled when I count all of the good that has come my way.

Caregiving isn’t always about giving back, but it can be. It can even be for people who didn’t do well by us. We’re going to do better for them than they were able to do for us, because we’ve grown enough that we can choose to walk a different path.

So this month, I’m practicing and feeling an attitude of gratitude. It starts at the top of my head where I tell myself to notice all of the positives in my life. It goes to my heart where I feel truly thankful. And it stretches out into my mouth, hands, and feet where I walk the walk and talk the talk. I’m a caregiver, and I’m so thankful to be here with my loved ones at this time in this place.

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