I seem to be doing a series on retirement in a blog ostensibly devoted to caregiving of aging parents. However, the aging parents are dead and Judi, Carol, and I are now the aging parents. This has always been the pattern, and as our population becomes proportionately older, there will be more caregivers who become the aging parents. Caregivers of aging parents also tend to be around retirement age. Does this describe you?
Today I got home from work (yes, I am retired) and immediately stepped into my caregiver role. Carol had hand surgery, got a cast, and now the cast is off, therapy has begun, and her right hand hurts and has about 20% of the strength of her left “weak” hand. I had bottles to open, a hand to massage, paperwork to do, things to carry and move, and generally be a good husband.
All I wanted to do is sit down, look at the TV, eat all the left-over shrimp casserole I cooked yesterday, and do nothing else. Not for caregivers! I did get so sit some, but I had to share (!) the casserole and pay attention to my beloved. Now, I ask, it that fair? After all, aren’t I retired?
Well, no. Retired does not mean ceasing caregiving. Retired does not mean not working. For most retired people, it does not mean the RV, poodle, and square dancing in Yuma in February. Retirement means engaging in life in a changed way, but engaging. Most important is the fact that once a caregiver, always a caregiver.
Carol’s parents did not stop caregiving even in the last weeks of their lives. Right up to their deaths they were more concerned about how their children were doing than with their own selves. This is the human connection. Illnesses, age, troubles, reversals, careers, retirement, none of these things or any other override our natural role as caregiver. We were born as caregivers, and it is a major part of our life’s work. I hope the growing literature and awareness given to caregiving will lead to the recognition caregiving deserves.