What Does ‘Settling’ Mean To Caregivers?

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Caring for a loved one over time is a complicated business. If the need for care grows slowly, it may seem that at first, each helping task is perfectly doable. But taken together and over time, caregiving tasks may become overwhelming. This is especially true in the case of degenerative disease combined with the caregiver’s own aging.  Caregivers must make achoice every day to provide loving care.  Sometimes, especially for long-term caregivers, this choice requires courage and the determination to place love above all else.

A re-arrangement of priorities is required, a coming to grips, a reconciliation of personal goals, a ‘settling in’ to care.  Sometimes, especially in long-term care, there are natural barriers to making peace with caregiving.  Caregivers may engage in a battle of priorities, culminating in making enemies of both work and home. They may crave multiple social connections and the consoling ‘noise’ of an independent and bustling, working life.

Does being ‘settled in’ to caregiving represent liberation or captivity?  Being in the right place, doing the right thing is natural for young parents caring for their children.  But what of an older parent caring for an adult child with disabilities? What about the role reversal in eldercare?  At the beginning of caring for an ill spouse or frail parent, a caregiver might strive to finish caring tasks quickly in order to return to other selfish or worldly concerns.

With the passing of weeks and months, time spent shifts to a slower pace.  The caregiver stops wishing to be somewhere else.  Being alone with a loved one morphs into a natural way to be.  And the caregiver notices that the slowness and quiet of care is in itself a presence, not an absence.  Settling for the reduced ambitions of caring for a loved one opens a door to a life rich with humanity and meaning.

A realization dawns that the call to care is not a call to battle. It is a quiet truce in a land that is foreign to most other people.  Here, there is the possibility of intimacy, of reflecting on hopes, dreams and on mortality. Here, there is the chance to be grateful for small joys and tender mercies.

Here, there is the opportunity to know what is most important about being alive.

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About the Author

Donna Thomson , Caregiver

Donna Thomson cares for her adult son with severe disabilities and for her Mom who is still feisty at 93. She's the author of The Four Walls of My Freedom: Lessons I've Learned From a Life of Caregiving (The House of Anansi Press, 2014) and blogs regularly at The Caregivers' Living Room. Donna is the Caregiving Advisor for Tyze Personal Networks, a free online tool designed to help caregivers coordinate a network of support.


  1. A masterful piece, plumbing the depths of our caregiving existance as only someone who has/is doing it, can. On a certain level, longterm caregiving, for a child who is destined to have a much shortened lifespan in my case, is a prison. My entire life as I knew it before, stopped. Relationships crumble, friends disappear because they can’t comprehend the choices one makes. Siblings carry part of the load, many times, as life appears to ebb away and your own physical and mental fatigue feel crushing, you wonder what it’s all for. But love, love endures all things. Life as a parent and caregiver becomes the one and clear meaning.

  2. I can relate to this article, my thinking was that between work and caring for my son that I created my own prison like walls, also lost a lot of friends, life certainly is not the same.
    I never thought that I would have so much criticism of the choices I made, I certainly don’t regret them, you can stop a parents love,the power is too strong, but their are days plenty of them I struggle to go on

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