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When “caregiving” means much more

Posted on 10-27-15 in Mental Health, Rehabilitation

When “caregiving” means much more

A story appeared in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in April 2014. It was called “In sickness and in health: A couple’s final journey.” The story was not only nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, but went on to win several other renowned awards. It widely documented the real life events of Christopher MacLellan’s role as a caregiver for his dying partner, Bernard Richard Schiffer.

What’s the Deal with Caregiving?” is authored by MacLellan. When the author and his partner discovered that Schiffer had esophageal cancer, they said “We have cancer but the cancer does not have us” and made it their life motto. Initially given three to four months to live, Schiffer continued to live for 29 months against all odds until he passed away in March 2014. MacLellan started blogging on their website The Purple Jacket in 2011, documenting his caregiving experience.

The author reinforces the idea of caregiving for another individual as nothing less than an honor. MacLellan said, “My Caregiving Cape has limitations: Recognize and accept that your Caregiving Cape has limitations, too.”

MacLellan, who assumed the role of a caregiver twice, has written an elaborate guidebook for caregivers providing guidance, tips, resources, compassion and advice based on his own experience and passion to help those struggling with the role of being a caregiver.

The National Alliance for Caregiving 2015 Report estimates there are 43.5 million adult caregivers in the U.S. today. Despite the large statistics, caregivers often feel alone and helpless as they struggle with the added responsibilities and stress in life. Amidst everything that requires caregiving for a loved one, it’s not too often that caregivers lose themselves in the process. MacLellan instead stresses the need to find a purpose through this phase of life. What he calls the five pillars, the author convinces the readers to take care of themselves physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and financially. When recalling his caregiving experience, MacLellan regrets not taking better care of himself.

“In today’s world, there is the increasing likelihood that it is not “if,” but more likely “when,” that each of us will find ourselves facing the emotional and practical challenges associated with providing, perhaps for an extended period of time, care for a family member or significant other… My many conversations with Chris over the years have revealed an informed and evolving wisdom born from those deeply personal and courageous experiences. Chris’ clear guidance and informed perspective will serve you well, and perhaps almost as importantly, will be of benefit to your loved one too. How? Because, if you are a well and knowledgeable caregiver, you will be a more effective caregiver adding to your “caree’s” quality of life,” stated John A Shwed, Ph.D., LCSW.

“Chris MacLellan writes with vulnerability, compassion, humor and honesty about his victories and hardships of caregiving for his partner. Through his story he offers caregivers hope, encouragement, guidance and support. If you are in the throes of caregiving, this book is a must to have on your bedside,” reviewed Melanie McMillion, M.S., LMHC Hospice Counselor.

About the author

Christopher MacLellan is affectionately known as the “bow-tie guy” in many care giving circles. MacLellan regularly blogs for The Purple Jacket and is an active advocate for caregivers and their care recipients. He is currently in a Masters Program in Leadership and Communication at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.

Written by Sana Ahmed, Sovereign Health Group writer