Yes I Can Can
March 28, 2018

If It's Wednesday

Wednesday is her caregiving day. That’s not to say she does not self-identify as a caregiver on the other six days, or change her caregiving schedule if something comes up, but on Wednesday you can count on the day being reserved for this purpose.

She is a nurse who works in a procedure suite, so she has relative flexibility compared to visiting nurses who work in homes, or ICU nurses in the hospital. For nurses there is no such thing as “work days” and “weekends.” Nursing is one of the caregiver professions. For this daughter with a bedbound father who is less than a year away from triple digit age, her reserved caregiving day is her off day from the remunerative, occupational work in the caregiving profession of nursing. It’s the “day-off” is my “day-on” phenomenon.

Because of the flexibility of the paying job, she reserves Wednesday for the routine of bathing, feeding, comforting, and companioning her father. Her co-workers think of it as her day off, but they do know that she is working just the same, not for money, but to give and receive love each Wednesday.

They have a sweet relationship, the nurse-daughter and her near centenarian. She’s the boss. She can get him to do anything and that’s because of unquestioning trust, and maybe because he respects that she is a nurse. Or maybe it’s because she has the personal skills to be a hands-on caregiver for her father, who in health care is labeled “total care,” or, on the ADL scale, “dependent.”

But I see the two of them as interdependent, and more than “total care,” they are “totally caring.” I think she is giving back for the years that he raised her, the baby, after her mother died when she was seven. On Wednesday, her day-off/day-on, she is giving back to an elder the care he gave her as a child. The imprint of his care and nurturing could well have led her to choose nursing as her profession.

Photo by Mickey Hoelscher

Wednesday is her caregiving day. That’s not to say she does not self-identify as a caregiver on the other six days, or change her caregiving schedule if something comes up, but on Wednesday you can count on the day being reserved for this purpose.

She is an artist-educator. She is dancer, choreographer, and dance teacher. She has more flexibility in her schedule than classroom teachers. Wednesday is the day when she doesn’t teach, but instead schedules doctors’ appointments for her parents, both in their 80s, who need to be driven to many specialists. Her students and dancers know that she is still an artist on Wednesday, but they don’t really know that the creative product is love and well-being.

She is the youngest child of three who describes caregiving as part of her heritage. As a child she watched her mother take care of her grandmother in the family home, which involved medical equipment for advanced diseases. We don’t all grow up in homes that have a living room full of hospital equipment, but when children do, they learn that part of life is naturally doing what needs to be done whether or not other families do the same. Children who grow up in caregiving homes discover that it’s not aberrant to have an oxygen concentrator in the living room, but part of meeting needs.

She has two parents, two in-law parents and two teen children while dealing with the vagaries of self-employment. The skills required to be a parent and daughter, and to know your place as a daughter-in-law, are open-mindedness, creativity, the ability to remain still and silent, and the ability to improvise, which are also the skills of a dancer. Her parents don’t need hands-on care now. They need health care discussions, tests and treatments for prevention which involve scheduling, calls, schlepping to appointments and expecting the unexpected.

Teresa Perez-Ceccon teaching at Gibney Dance New York City 2019
Photos by Ken Schwartzman

Thyme N. Haff

2019 Wednesday April 10

If You've Met 100 Caregivers...