Sometimes in the day to day activities it’s easy to forget to say, “I love you.” This is true of the caregiver and the patient.
How many times have you been cleaning the house, making a meal, sorting through medications and thought, “I wish he or she would just say I love you or even just thank you?” Being a caregiver can sometimes be a thankless job. The day to day tasks can begin to take over the relationship, and it can begin to harden both hearts. This is true for the spouse relationship, parent/child relationship, sibling, etc.
Your loved one may be starting to find that he or she cannot do the things that once were easy, and knowing that you are needing to do so much may begin to tear away at a once open and soft heart. There are so many emotions and thoughts that your patient is dealing with: What if I cannot cook anymore? Will my family still come around? What if I can no longer walk on the beach? Will I be able to touch the sand again? Will there be a time that I can no longer drive? How will I get around? If I cannot play with the grandkids, will they remember me? If I need more and more care, will I become a burden? This is just the tip of the iceberg.
I have seen two very different scenarios in the relationship between a caregiver and the patient. I have seen a once caring relationship become increasingly harder over the years, and I have seen a good relationship become even better. I remember one caring family that was thrown into the caregiver role, but there was very little appreciation and very little loving communication. The simple words, “thank you,” were never spoken, and in turn the words, “I love you” were scarce. Over time, the relationship became difficult and even bitter at times.
Then in my own situation, I have the example of a good relationship becoming even better. My mom understood the importance of saying “thank you” and “I love you.” Some of my most vivid memories right now are of my mom saying thank you and making me know that she loved me. Once she told me, “I know you’re supposed to love me because I’m your mother, but I really believe that you love me because you want to. You care for me because you want to, and I am forever grateful.” I did not want her to go one day without me telling her that I loved her, and her expressions of love and gratitude allowed our relationship to grow even closer in the last few years.
As a caregiver, I know that it is important that the one we care for is able to communicate love and gratitude, but maybe you are in a situation that is not like this. Maybe the one that you care for has shut down emotionally because it’s just too hard to feel. In that situation, you can only answer for yourself. Are you saying, “I love you”? Are you approaching things with care, or are you approaching things with bitterness? Can you look back at this situation and have very little or no regrets?
Sometimes, over time, those three simple words, “I love you” can soften a cold, hard heart. You may think that they know you love them because of all that you are doing, but sometimes the words that are left unsaid, are the ones that scream the loudest when you can no longer say them.