Have a purpose. It’s advice given to Beau Biden by his doctor after he is diagnosed with the brain tumour that causes his aphasia. And it’s the advice the whole family takes to heart as they navigate their role as caregivers.
Joe Biden’s book, Promise Me, Dad, is the latest installment of our online book club. We will be focusing solely on the parts of the book that cover aphasia and caregiving.
Joe Biden asks Dr. Yung, Beau Biden’s doctor, how should Beau live following the diagnosis. On page 33, Biden writes the doctor’s answer,
We should not let this disease take over our entire existence. He told Beau to go home and live like he had a future: “Run for governor. Have a purpose.”
Almost every day after that, I found myself acting on that advice — have a purpose. No matter what came at me, I held fast to my own sense of purpose. I held on for dear life. If I lost hold of that and let Beau’s battle consume me, I feared, my whole world would collapse. I did not want to let down the country, the Obama administration, my family, myself, or most important, my Beau.
The doctor recommends that everyone continues to look towards the future, just as they would without news of the brain tumour.
The Role of the Caregiver
Aphasia, like all conditions, becomes part of your everyday world, and it has the potential to be the largest, most defining part of your being. But this advice brings up an important point: you are more than your aphasia. A single situation cannot define a whole person, especially if they have a purpose. And in this way, caregivers can play an important role in keeping everyone focused on the fact that their loved one is more than their situation.
People with aphasia should continue to plan for their intended future. If your goal was to travel, you should continue to travel, making accommodations for your aphasia. If your goal was to get married, you should still get married.
In other words, keep aphasia — or any situation — to an appropriate size by always having a purpose. Look ahead to the future and be hopeful.
What is your purpose right now?
Image: Ravi Roshan via Unsplash