When the Going Gets Tough: Reflections of a Caregiver

The mission of Maine AgrAbility is to serve farmers, members of their families, and hired workers on the farm who are disabled in some way. Correspondingly, we often work with caregivers. Within the family constellation, there is usually a primary caregiver, the person who provides the lifeline that enables the family member with the disability to live fully and productively.

This work is as rewarding as it is challenging.

I recently talked to one of our clients on this subject. I will identify him as A, as he wished to remain anonymous.

heart shaped wood piecesA has taken care of his wife, N, for the past 25 years of their marriage. This entire time, N was in a wheelchair due to progressive disease. The couple raised three children, ran a diversified beef operation, and had close ties with the local farm community. Since around 2006, N has been in and out of the hospital numerous times. Stays sometimes lasted weeks, with surgeries requiring long periods of healing. She has had several close calls with death.

“The last year and a half has been a nightmare,” A said.

I asked A, “How do you do it?”

“I’ve always looked out for N,” A replied. “Her disability came on gradually. We learned to take it in stride. You accept it.”

“Don’t take life too serious.”

N had a deep, seeping wound for almost two years. A had to clean the draping and the bandages, and vacuum out the wound twice a day to prevent infection. When the wound was rebandaged, there had to be a perfect seal with no leaks.

As a former paramedic, A used this metaphor:

“Don’t get fixated on the wound. Keep a wider focus.

“It’s the same with anything.”

“Improvisation is a wonderful word. Hope for the best, anticipate the worst. Deal with what you’ve got.

It comes down to your attitude. You can’t stress over everything that happens. You swap hats. You do what you need to do to make it work.”

“What keeps me sane? I play with my grandkids. I enjoy being with my wife and my kids.

“The early morning is my downtime, my think time. Time for me to cry.

And when the going gets rough? “I take a five-minute walk around the farm. I take time to be grateful. I count my blessings every day.”

Yes, we all have so much to be thankful for–especially people in our lives like A.

For more information and resources, check out: Caregivers, Resources for caregivers developed by the National AgrAbility Program.