You’ve already learned how to be a good caregiver from other areas of your life, including skills such as tenacity, patience, and empathy. This is what Joe Biden discovers early on in his caregiving journey after his son is diagnosed with a brain tumour that causes his aphasia.
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.
From Public Servant to Caregiver
Biden quickly realizes that his work as a public servant prepared him for being a caregiver. Early in the book, he gives his guiding ideology for working in the public sector. He states on page 42,
I have come to believe that the first duty of a public servant is to help bring people together, especially in crisis, especially across difficult divides, to show respect for everybody at the table, and to help find a safe way forward. After forty-five years in office, that basic conviction still gave me purpose.
This work — bringing people together in a crisis — is immediately applicable to the situation he finds himself in during the rest of the book; being a caregiver. In fact, this is exactly what a caregiver does. He creates the safe way forward through a situation.
One way to create that safe way forward is to comfort those around you; namely the person (or people) at the center of the crisis. In the same chapter, Biden is giving solace to a woman who has lost her husband. He lets her know that he will still be there for her after those initial first days when she is surrounded by support after a crisis. As many discover with an on-going situation, people who jump into action early on don’t always stick around when support fatigue sets in. True caregivers are the people who know it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and they are still there after the initial shock has passed.
Biden writes on page 55,
And then in six weeks, or maybe twelve weeks, everybody else’s life is going to start to get back to normal. But your life isn’t going to be normal again. As a matter of fact, as you probably understand already, it’s going to get harder for you. And after a while you’re going to start to feel guilty because you’re going to be going to the same people constantly for help, or just to talk. And as their lives get back to normal, you are going to start to worry about leaning on them too much. There might come a time when you think, I’m asking too much. I’ve got to stop complaining. “So when you’re down and you feel guilty for burdening your family and friends,” I said, “pick up the phone and call me.”
This small act of comfort foreshadows the care he will give his own son, sticking around through the new normal.
Understanding that lessons learned at work can be applied to caregiving powers Biden through dark days when he wonders if he has the ability to help his family forward. The answer, of course, is that he has these tools from other facets of life. He just needs to apply them forward.
What are the best lessons you have learned from other areas of life that have prepared you for being a caregiver?
Photo: Zoltan Tasi via Unsplash