By Carol Zernial
WellMed Charitable Foundation Executive Director
The movie “Wonder Woman” is all the buzz these days. (Spoiler alert on the major themes of the film.) Diana Prince, Wonder Woman, is like many of us. Her life was pretty perfect – it doesn’t hurt that she is the daughter of Zeus and lived on Paradise Island with strong women to support her. When she discovers the perils facing the outside world in the form of World War I, she wonders who she would be if she didn’t answer the call for help. We all hear that call. Like so many of us caregivers, she jumped in naively believing that she could fix everything.
Caregivers / Wonder Woman have the best of intentions. We just want to help. But the complexity of life hits us. Some people deserve help, but perhaps not everyone. Many people are caring for relatives who were abusive, dysfunctional, absent, overbearing and who give nothing.
Do they deserve the sacrifices made on their behalf to care for them?
In the movie, Diana comes to realize that people are flawed and imperfect. But each of them embodies the full spectrum of humanity, good and bad. She chooses to help mankind realize their potential and give them their best chance of living a good life.
Our caregiving journey is much like this. We often get into caregiving without giving it much serious thought of where it will take us. Along the way, we realize how overwhelming this experience can be. We may be surprised about some of the things we find out about our loved ones who we thought we knew. It is not all rainbows and butterflies. But we don’t give up.
We are changed by the caregiving experience. We lose some of our innocence about people and institutions we thought we could rely on like medicine, hospitals and caring professionals. We can’t necessarily save the person we’re caring for no matter how hard we try. We experience loss, grief, and so many other emotions.
Like Wonder Woman, we can’t go back to our old lives. We may retreat to things we know and that bring us comfort.
Wonder is a key ingredient to caregiving. Wondering what we should do. Being in awe of the love we feel for our parents, spouse or children. Life is unscripted and it unfolds before us – surprising us. We are amazed at the strengths we find insides ourselves, and how much we can bear. At the end of the day, women (and men) wonder how they did it – and many shake their heads knowing they would do it all again if they heard the call for help.
WellMed Charitable Foundation Executive Director Carol Zernial is a noted gerontologist, radio show host, and Chair of the National Council on Aging. The non-profit WellMed Charitable Foundation focuses on complimentary programs impacting seniors and family caregivers, including weekly telephone learning sessions, evidence-based classes on stress reduction and more. Find out more at www.CaregiverSOS.org or toll-free at 1-866-390-6491