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The Gail Sheehy Interview (Page 2 of 5)
An Interview with Gail Sheehy
One other thing I find very exciting
about this kind of partnering with your
loved ones care team is that it makes
your loved one stand out.
think it is amazing that you are saying
we want to be part of the team. I think
a huge part of successful treatment is
feeling that the caregiver, patient, and
health professional are working
together. We will help, we will do
research, we will work with you, but we
want you to work with us as a
And you know the truth is that the good
health professionals, who are swamped by
the system but really care, very much
want your help. You are the one who
lives with their patient 24 hours a day.
They want to know what changes you see
in your loved one’s situation. They want
your interest and involvement.
Right. And if they do not, you have to
really like your use of the phrase
“labyrinth of caregiving” in the book. I
think it is a very illuminating way to
describe the caregiving experience.
Please walk me through that concept.
Like everyone else, I felt like I was
just in chaos; there was no structure to
what we were going through. And then I
was on a caregiver retreat in a church
and I began walking a labyrinth that was
inscribed on the floor. It felt very
relaxing, serene and secure because you
are walking a path that is laid out for
you; then suddenly, there is a twist and
you are going in reverse. You go along
for a little while and then there is
another twist, another sharp turn. I
thought, wow, this is just like what I
am going through as a caregiver.
As I proceeded, I saw
that you have to have faith and you have
to have patience, but this is a path.
There is a way into it and there is a
way out of it, if you just stay on the
path and have faith. When I got to the
center with a great sense of relief, I
began to think that this must be the
place where you know that your loved one
is going to come back, or is going to
become more and more needy and
eventually leave you.
I came to understand
that is the point at which you, the
caregiver, have to begin preparing your
own way back. You are on a different
path than they are. Your mom, your dad,
or maybe your spouse is on a path that
ends with their leaving this world. You
are on a path that has to bring you back
into the world. That is a dual path and
it is quite hard to think about, but it
is nothing to feel guilty about. The
greatest tragedy is if you lose two for
one; when the caregiver goes down with
the person they are caring for, and that
happens much too often.