As a physician dealing with patients with advanced, often end-stage heart disease, I come across a lot of patients who are receiving excellent care at home by their family members who have sacrificed their personal lives to care for their loved ones. Our team has a support group for caregivers where they share stories about themselves, their loved ones, their frustrations and fears. Caregiver fatigue is something that we are becoming more aware of in recent years. This poem is written from the point of view of a caregiver grappling with this issue.
I love you dearly, though from what I’m going to say
My sentiments may not come across that way-
There are days when in a sleep-deprived daze
I feel I cannot go on any longer, pretending to be unfazed
By the constant exposure to unpleasant fluids varied
I clean silently, but sometimes I can not succeed
In hiding my revulsion at the sights and odours
I try to benumb myself until the clean-up is over
Then sink back exhausted in the armchair
When you take a nap- yet I try to be aware
At all times of your discomfort and your needs
If I do not respond timely, I feel guilty indeed..
I know it is a herculean task for you and me
To drive you to your appointments, definitely
Yet here’s a secret I am ashamed to reveal-
On those days a frisson of excitement I feel
At the thought of an opportunity for interaction
With other human beings- it gives me some satisfaction
To know that there is life outside of these walls
We can still enjoy the beauty of spring, summer and fall..
I know we both wish things were not this way
When you call me for help, I can see the dismay
In your eyes that yet again you need me
Yet again you have demonstrated your dependency
When friends call me for a night out and I reply, inevitably
That I am busy, I can see your eyes tearing up for me
You talk about another caregiver to unburden me
But both of us this is not possible (at least usually)
With limited finances and other constraints
Besides, I have almost learnt to practice restraint
Where entertainment and social activities are concerned
If I have spare time, I try to enjoy the rest I have earned..
Then there are those days when I am exhausted beyond measure
And there appears my savior, those moments I treasure
When a friend offers to help for a few hours or a day
I feel relieved; I know you do too, more than you would say
This break from caregiving reminds me of how much I love you
And why caring for you is what I would gladly continue to do..