Dr. Amy: Learning how to accept care

Dear Dr. Amy,

I have a number of health issues, and over the past few months, my condition has worsened. My husband now has to take care of me, and I am finding it difficult to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of purpose. Do you have any words of wisdom to share?

For most of us, our sense of purpose in life is tied to what we do – mother, teacher, employee, volunteer. Our job and our role in the family and community give us a sense of identity and self worth. When we can no longer contribute the way we used to, even the strongest among us can begin to feel lost, or even depressed.

Believe it or not, your situation presents you with a wonderful and a challenging opportunity. You can give others the gift of caring—and be a source of support.

If that sounds strange, think back to before your health started to fail. You likely took care of yourself, your family, and others. Helping others made you feel good. This gift of feeling good by helping others is a gift you can now give to your husband and others who are caring for you.

Many people find it difficult to accept even small acts of service. Accepting a great deal of care is challenging. However, as you are receiving care, you can give support and appreciation. Show genuine interest in the thoughts of those caring for you. Listen closely to their cares and concerns. Express support for your caregivers as they face their own challenges. And express appreciation for the care you receive, both in words and in actions.

People like to help others. It makes them feel good about themselves. You can make it your purpose to help others feel good about themselves in two ways: by giving them the gift of caring for another person—you— without reservation, anger, or embarrassment; and by giving them your support and appreciation.

Dr. Amy

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