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When Love Isn’t Enough – What to Ask of Family Caregivers

By Mary Lou Harris July 05, 2022 Caregiving

On a recent long flight, I happened across a better than average film amongst the airline’s offerings. It gave me pause to consider how adamant I might be in making my wishes known about health care when I can no longer care for myself.

The beautifully done film is titled Amour. There is a strong love and mutual appreciation between Anne and George. It is a loving story of the life and relationship of a marriage between two aging musicians and music teachers.

What Love Looks Like

In addition to the love between the married couple, the amour clearly extends to their music students. We see how much Anne means to her former student, Alexandre, as they attend a concert where he performs. The scene showing a tender conversation between the adult daughter Eva and George shows the understanding warmth of the father-daughter relationship.

Early on in the film, the couple is having a typical morning conversation over tea when Anne experiences a stroke. It is the beginning of the shattering of the life they knew.

On her return from the hospital, she asks George to please not send her back. She wants to receive her care at home. He agrees and with some visits from their doctor and the help of a visiting nurse, he maintains the major care of her.

After a second stroke, he declines additional help from their daughter and dismisses a second shift nurse who he feels was rough and insensitive with Anne. But George’s love and desire to protect his wife becomes overwhelming.

He finally breaks after soothing her with a story through a bad spell, puts a pillow over her face and smothers her.

How Much Do We Ask?

How does a relationship filled with love, with amour, end like this? How do we ensure, when we make it clear we want to stay in our homes, what we are asking of our caregivers isn’t too much?

Have we ever considered how much we would be capable of as caregivers? Are we the type of person who must ‘do it all’ and close out others, relatives and professionals, where it might be better for ourselves and the spouse or parent we love to consider their recommendations and assistance?

This is the quandary of end-of-life orders. I know now what I would want, but once I am in the position as a patient, I may view things differently.

Can we know the amount of stress we are placing on our family or a particular family member as caregivers? Will the anxiety that accompanies a stroke or a heart attack make us more demanding of those who have been closest to us?

Every family is different and each of us is different. It may be worthwhile to consider not only what our wishes for health care may be but how realistic it may be. How well do we know our family members? We may love them dearly, but can we know who will rise to the occasion and who might end up smothering their own lives as they care for us (and hopefully not smothering us)?

This film is worth watching as it is one of the few where the marriage of two older people is treated with such understanding and tenderness. It deserved the numerous awards it received in France and in the USA.

Any film or book can be a teaching experience and we likely take away different lessons. My lesson from this one is to treat my family members with love as I make decisions or requests about my care. What are the kindest requests to expect of them and what do I anticipate they can handle?

Have you watched Amour? Do you think your loved ones will care of you with tenderness or will it be a burden? Would caregiving smother you or your loved ones?

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The Author

Mary Lou Harris is a proponent of active living, community volunteerism and inquisitive travel. After a post age 60 retirement from a career in public service, she expanded those interests to include ultra-trail running, hiking and extended-stay travel. She can be contacted through her website https://stillarunner.com or on Twitter at @stillarunner.

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