Tuesday 9 April 2019

Natural Caring: A New Way to Think About What We Do Best Everyday

Today I listened in to a podcast called "Caring Counts: A Celebration of Natural Caring" featuring Canadian social innovators, Paul Born, Al Etmanski and Vickie Cammack

Vickie and Al are champions of natural caring, which they define this way: Natural caring is love in action. It is freely given. It involves a relationship with someone or something we care deeply about. It is flexible and responsive to the situation. It is reciprocal, with meaning for both the giver and the receiver.

Paul Born is the co-CEO of Tamarack Institute and the Director of Vibrant Communities. If you happen to be curious about social change in Canada, he's your man. At Tamarack, there is method to his madness in placing natural caring alongside innovations in reducing societal ills such as poverty, loneliness and disenfranchisement. Al and Vickie's roots are in the disability movement - they are international thought leaders in social innovations leading to the belonging and empowerment of people with disabilities and their families. 

Vickie and I have written about natural caring before, but I began to think more deeply about it today. Paul asked, "what about people looking after loved ones at home who are really suffering under the burden of care? What about people who are struggling alone? How can a movement of natural caring help them?"

Vickie answered this way, "There is no doubt that in natural caring, there is suffering. There is even sometimes despair. But I would ask family caregivers to think about what they do for their loved one that others (including paid professionals) cannot do. Then I would suggest that they ask for support to do those things. Because often, there is a common misconception that medical professionals can care 'better' (so we should just organize respite) or if we are very tired, it's because we haven't practiced self-care properly." 

Then Paul asked if it's ever possible for paid caregivers or medical professionals to demonstrate natural caring. Vickie told a story about her nephew who is a paramedic. One day at work, he was transferring a patient from one long term care hospital to another. This man had not been outside for six months. So Vickie's nephew and his partner pulled to the side of the road near a beach just outside Vancouver. They opened the ambulance doors and lowered the stretcher on to the sand so the patient could feel the wind and sun for a few minutes before they set off again for the new hospital. 

Some people would call this kindness and it IS kindness in caring. But if we limit our thinking about natural caring, we are missing something important, said Al. Natural caring is what we all have in common when we enter into a care relationship with another. The daughter who cares for her mother with dementia has natural caring in common with Vickie's nephew. It is the unleveraged power in our society that no one is talking about ... except Al, Vickie, Paul and now you and me. 

Describe to your friends, neighbours and extended family members what you do for your loved one that no one else can. Ask for their help and support in doing what only you can do. And finally, talk about #NaturalCaring on social media. Because this is a movement and it starts with us. 

Our new book is now available for pre-order from all major booksellers! 


Unknown said...

I would be ungrateful if I decided not to share our success experience with ZOMO, I was a born caregiver, so it’s hard for me to look at my own needs as separate from my Dad’s needs. Most patients just need someone to hug them and tell them that they are not worthless, the treatment I tried not only worked but I believe cured him.

He was diagnosed in 2011. I took Dad to the GP after noticing that he had become increasingly forgetful and vague. The clear sign that something was wrong came when he drove his car to the local shops (a five minute drive), bought his shopping, then walked back home, forgetting the car was parked outside the shop. The next day he rang me to say the car had been stolen. He had no recollection of leaving it behind. After a week he began to repeat himself and ask the same questions. He would struggle to remember conversations that had only occurred five minutes earlier.

His situation was very complicated. I understand how one feel as a daughter and once caregiver, memory loss is so much more complicated. Many have been conditioned to think that traditional medicine has not found a cure for a disease. ZOMO have challenged this train of my thought. When he was ill, it was a tragedy, I endured, I was broken, I knew hardship, I was lost. But here I stand and I can tell you unequivocally that my Dad is cured. It is those of us who have been broken that understand the meaning of memory loss. As I look at the past and start writing this, tears of joy overwhelm me. I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better. It was one of my most difficult jobs and one that I poured my heart and soul into daily. Taking into account how well my Dad progressed in that space of time and now. There is no more memory loss symptoms for more than 6months now. The thing is, I get peace of mind when Dad is well taken care of: when he’s happy, I’m happy. Right now, it’s all about him…I always enter into his world so we can manage life together. We wake up every morning with a smile and we look forward to what the new day will bring. Reach out to him at [email protected]

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