The Beauty of Caring for Another

Rarely is the joy and beauty of caring for another appreciated or expressed. Commonly, we are told how hard and draining it is. We hear about the low pay of carers (a fact), long hours, shift work and lack of recognition and value for carers. And for carers – whether paid or unpaid – the role can be seen as a job, an obligation, duty, not something to be desired or even something that could possibly be deeply enriching. And yet there are carers who love the work they do, are inspired by their work and their clients and who do not become exhausted by this work.

I am an example of this. I have worked as a live-in carer for nine years and found that caring for another can be enriching for both carer and client.

The beauty to be found in caring for another may not be evident at the start of the relationship. This is beauty in itself as both carer and client begin to get to know one another. Over time, something intangible, unspoken and unseen evolves. And when we do not seek to achieve anything in particular we are given all we need, until the learning is revealed – whether it be about ourselves, our relationship with the client, or something seemingly unrelated. If open to it, we embark on a journey that offers carer and client many treasures.

When a carer first moves in to live with their client, an inevitable period of adjustment follows for both. The client may have lived on their own for a few months or years. Many make the choice to have a live-in carer after the death of a spouse; or the decision made reflects an elder’s declining health and need for additional support at home. At this stage there’s little sense of the specifics of the journey or where it will end.

A carer’s training prepares them for the many functional aspects of the role: administering medication, health and safety, safeguarding, moving and handling clients and food hygiene. In addition, carers may receive training on the physical, social and emotional needs of clients and person-centred care. There may also be a need for specialist training related to a specific health condition of the client (Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Dementia, Brain Injury, Heart condition). All of these form part of the foundational education of carers.

But there is more . . . the finer details of what is truly available for carer and client.

The true beauty of care is fully experienced when the carer is connected to their own inner beauty.

A carer at ease with themselves has the confidence to connect with the client and build a relationship based on equalness. A relationship like this depends not just on the carer, but the client also. To be accepted by a client who accepted me as their equal was foundational to finding beauty in our caring relationship.

But this was not a ready-made relationship.  Like a plant, it was watered, tended and nurtured until it transformed.

I found beauty in care by being un-identified with the role of ‘carer’ and never losing my own sense of self. I remained true to myself throughout, while honouring and respecting the client.

As carer I:

  • Am settled and confident in myself
  • Practise self-care and nourish my body with foods that maintain my vitality, in addition to daily exercise and gentle meditations
  • Am not needy, neither seeking recognition nor validation from client or family
  • Am curious to know more about the client and their ill-health condition
  • Am purposeful, there to serve client, family and friends fully and enjoy the journey as it unfolds.

When I move with centredness and presence, gentleness, settlement and in stillness, I reflect a way of being that invites the client to be equally settled within themselves.

When I offer a client order, consistency and settled routines, they feel safe in trusted hands.

When I observe a client to understand their interests, ways, preferences, energy levels and moods – and respond to what is seen and felt – it brings us closer together.

When I allow a client to be themselves, express preferences and make their own choices, it empowers them and brings playfulness, regardless of the stage of advancement of their ill-health condition.

When I relate to a client without imposing on them, follow them and let them lead the way, it brings flow and harmony to the relationship.

When I see the client as my teacher, I find the true treasure chest. The treasure is seeing and appreciating the uniqueness of each client, learning about them and myself, and feeling the joy of this as the relationship between us unfolds.

When every move, expression or request made by client (or family) is observed, it becomes an opportunity to respond, discover and learn more from each one.

Whenever I or a client react over something, I revisit the ‘what happened’ later and together we reflect on it and express our feelings. In this way nothing is left unsaid. This brings a harmonious quality to the relationship.

When I openly acknowledge and share my own mistakes, it brings honesty and openness to the relationship. It is sometimes said; ‘There’s no such thing as failure, only learning.’ By living by this maxim, the quality of care and our relationship deepens because nothing is ever dismissed or lost; all accepted, explored until fully understood.

Above all, I have learned and continue to learn the true beauty of caring for another is when I began to appreciate and see beauty in every interaction, every expression and every movement the client made. Sure, obstacles can come my way, but I remain undeterred by them and see them as stepping-stones to deepen my own learning and understanding.

In this way caring for another is never overwhelming or draining, it inspires and energises, and every single moment offers an opportunity to understand, develop and know how precious working as a carer can be.

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