Being a Caregiver is Harder than Running a Marathon
I’ve been a caregiver and have run a marathon.
Ten years ago, this month, I ran my first marathon in Los Angeles at age 51. It was a goal I’d set at age 33.
Twenty years ago, I stopped being a family caregiver. My father was diagnosed with dementia and then Alzheimer’s. Five years later and before his 91st birthday, a massive stroke ended his life in March of 2001.
Running a Marathon vs. Caregiving
Last year, I learned from my orthopedic surgeon that training for a marathon is harder than running the actual marathon. We tend to focus on the goal and often neglect the commitment necessary to prepare. The same holds true for caregiving.
Of course, the challenge is, unless we’re professional caregivers or run marathons regularly, it’s hard to anticipate all we need to do.
The Los Angeles Marathon route in 2011 was marketed as “Stadium to the Sea.” That year, I ran 26.2 miles in sandals. (No blisters.) Early morning on March 20th, temperatures were in the low 50s. Shortly after the race began, rain started falling. By the time we reached Santa Monica (about 23 miles and a few miles from the finish line), hail pelted us. Runners had already dropped out of the race due to hypothermia and hundreds were treated by paramedics as the weather worsened.
Ten years ago, I wrote about it in Running a Marathon is Easier than Caregiving.
Even before reaching the starting line, there were unexpected obstacles to overcome. First, it was waking up to a power outage. Next, scrambling to adapt. Then the hour-long drive to Los Angeles stretched into 90 minutes.
The strength of our commitment to any life endeavor determines whether or not we’ll reach the finish line.
Having reached both finish lines—caregiving and marathon, I still believe caregiving follows a more difficult path.
As caregivers, we never know the length of the journey. Heck, most of the time, we have no map of where we’re going! There are too many unpredictable variables including our care recipient’s health, dealing with medical and care professionals, and finances.
Finally, there are some obstacles that canNOT be overcome.
When we have our hearts set on doing something, we need to weigh our options when the obstacles prove too great. In one of my recent articles, Letting Go of Physical Activity, I write about which physical endeavors will be off limits following injury. The older we grow, the more time we need to heal. I learned this when an injury caused me to wisely postpone running my first marathon at age 50—a goal I’d set for nearly 20 years. Read about it in A Long-time GOAL Postponed.
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