Gaming is most compelling when there is a perfect balance of potential outcomes: the game has to be difficult enough to pose a worthwhile challenge, but there has to be a chance the player could win. If the game is unbeatable, frustration takes over and the game is tossed aside. However, if the game is too easy, winning yields no personal reward. It becomes meaningless; the player gets no satisfaction. For the perfect balance to be struck, there must be a chance that this time, maybe this time, satisfaction can be achieved – especially if growth in skill and knowledge increase those chances.
I think this same principle can apply to caregiving.
A caregiver experiences constant defeat. Daily loss – of independence, privacy, personal time, money, former plans for the future, former hopes and dreams – are piled upon the overarching loss of one’s family member. Immediate grief compounded by anticipatory grief and complex grief.
A large percentage of family caregivers have no choice. This role evolution was thrust upon them and no alternative is in sight. It’s incredibly common there are other family members who have chosen, for whatever reason, not to help. Assisted living facilities and home health agencies have become so costly only the very wealthy can utilize them. Even so, a nationwide shortage of healthcare workers leaves us all grasping for help, only to return with fistfuls of the void.
Therefore, this is my conclusion: if the majority of caregivers have no choice in the matter, and being a caregiver is soaked in crushing defeat, something must be done. Humanity has a duty to bear witness and to take action to alleviate. After all, caregiving can happen to anyone at any time.
I experience first hand, daily, that the caregiver is the CEO of a great corporation. The caregiver is in the driver’s seat. The caregiver makes the healthcare decisions for their loved one. The caregiver administers their medications, meals, amount of water they imbibe, the level of isolation they experience, the atmosphere of their home, their level of physical comfort, what they watch on television, how they spend their money, if they pay their bills, if they make it to their doctor appointments, if they schedule follow-up doctor appointments, if the cupboards are bare or stocked, if proper paperwork is in place, if end-of-life wishes are honored, if a 911 call is made, if the doctor’s plan of care is followed or even read by anyone.
It is in everyone’s interest to respect the caregiver, include the caregiver, and educate the caregiver. Society needs the caregiver to succeed. Yet, nothing is in place to ensure our success. If anything, there’s a stigma surrounding caregivers, reinforcing the creeping, subconscious feeling that this is all somehow our own fault.
An aggressively different approach is necessary to counteract Caregiver Cognitive Dissonance (being the CEO yet being treated like a church mouse).
I propose the caregiver is like Player One in a video game. The caregiver must dodge the bad guys, maximize the amount of points earned, and level up. However, to make the video game strike that perfect chord and make winning achievable for the player, I am here to make cheat codes. Cheat codes for beating each villain. Cheat codes for getting more points. Cheat codes for bypassing certain levels altogether. Cheat codes that minimize defeat as much as possible.
The game will never be too easy; so, I will keep creating cheat codes until it is entirely possible for a family caregiver to live a healthy and happy life while fulfilling their role as caregiver.