Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Unnatural caregiving?

Eric Hansen, a local folksinger who gave me a few valuable voice lessons a while back, has a congenital lung disease called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Today I read about his experiences with it. As a singer, I wanted to know how someone who makes his living singing learns to cope with a condition that reduces lung capacity to 40%.

Then I got to this part, where he talks about participating in a clinical study for a new drug:
Boxes and boxes of supplies began arriving at my apartment which included: syringes, a centrifuge to spin blood, a pump, tubing and big foam boxes for shipping blood, Sharps containers and on and on. My girl friend just freaked out (I wasn’t too happy either) ... She did adjust a bit, but she never did go to Cleveland with me for support. Clearly, she was not a natural caregiver.
That caught my attention. I'd like to think that if someone I was dating suddenly found himself in possession of all this scary medical equipment, my reaction would be one of supportiveness and calm. In reality, I'd probably be pretty rattled.

We can all imagine what a "natural" caregiver is like -- someone with great nurturing instincts and a whole lot of patience. We can also imagine someone utterly lacking in these traits. My question: Can someone who isn't a natural caregiver learn to become one? And if so, how?


David Powell said...

I don't know if someone to whom caregiving doesn't come naturally can become a "natural" caregiver, but I firmly believe that they can become a good caregiver. I suspect it involves a lot of patience, resolve, and stoicism.

I also suspect those traits are crucially abundant in so-called "natural" caregivers, but it's preferable to imagine that they possess a nurturing aura which somehow lightens their burden.

DeppityBob said...

Some people are natural caregivers, becoming wonderful mothers, nurturers, nurses, and so on. Some people fancy themselves so when they are actually terribly self-interested. Some, though, learn early on that they're lacking the tools to apply their natural compassion and study life, and others, in order to become caregivers. And some lack compassion, or are simply too wrapped up in themselves to ever give. It's a wide, wide spectrum.