For About and By Caregivers
Rocks and Caregivers…What's  The Connection

By  Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer


Rocks and caregiving do not seem compatible in the same sentence or have an obvious connection. Rocks may seem ordinary, seemingly useless and taken for granted. Rocks may even seem unchanging; however, they do go through cycles and are constantly changing due to environmental influences, much like caregiving itself. Robert Greenleaf once wrote, “Caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built.”

The word “rock” can have significant meanings in understanding the plight of caregivers. Idioms such as “hit rock bottom,” “rock the boat,” “between a rock and hard place,” “God as my rock” or “solid as a rock” can all apply to the context of caregiving roles.

Caregiving can be satisfying, rewarding and, at times, difficult work. It is not only the task of doing, but also the task of coping, figuring out creative solutions or even trying to keep our heads above water. Caregiving challenges us all physically, mentally and spiritually. Our mission is to figure out how to meet that triple challenge while at the same time acknowledging that, now and then, we may feel defeated and overburdened.

A bucket of rocks can be symbolic of the heavy load we may carry when we provide care to a loved one. Individual rocks in that bucket may represent life circumstances that contribute to the weight of caring, such as lack of sleep, medical challenges, or a constant need for supervision of the care receiver. Taking the rocks out of the bucket, one at a time, and asking for help from others can lighten the load. Home care services, meal programs, housekeeping help, transportation, respite care, or a friend who is there to listen can all be utilized to help us carry our load longer and farther.

Multiple roles and responsibilities can keep us working tirelessly to maintain a healthy life balance and steadiness. A stack of balanced rocks can represent a caregiver’s balancing act, while caring individuals and services can provide a support network to keep the rocks from tumbling down. Rocks can also signify a solid foundation from which to build our caregiving values and goals.

The personal meaning and use of rocks can be endless. They are solid to the core despite years of enduring changes in weather and temperature or being tossed ashore by ferocious waves. These constant influences have shaped each rock just as life experiences shape us into the individuals we are today. Rocks in nature can bring about a feeling of calm or comfort and are useful for relieving pain when smooth, warmed stones are used in massage therapy. Rocks can be collected, painted, polished, specially chosen for a decorative rock garden or used as stepping stones, as in the case of caregivers who seek a pathway to follow.
Each rock is unique in color, shape and texture, and their creation and history are varied, just like each caregiver. Rocks can bring to mind the importance of perseverance through trying times or represent a strong fortress and shield against trouble. They can also remind us to take time for ourselves, to sit by a peaceful lake, feel the breeze and hear the soothing waves, walk along the beach, search for agates, or skip rocks in the water.

Rocks can symbolize the positive characteristics of people as in steadiness, permanence, and strength. These are all fine features that we can look for in the people we choose to surround us and uplift us as we walk along the path of caregiving. People around us can be our “rocks,” confidantes and guides. Even a pile of rocks can be viewed as a group of family members or friends all nestled together to form a strong care team.

Rock statues, also known as “inukshuks,” have far-reaching meanings and historically were used as landmarks, beacons, and aids in navigation. Often seen standing along Canada’s shores, these statues endure as eternal symbols of leadership, encourage the importance of friendship and remind us of our dependence upon each other. The inukshuks guided people and gave them hope in barren places to handle hardships they encountered.  Valuable lessons can be learned from the inukshuks as caregivers navigate through uncharted waters or journey into unknown territory.

Yes, rocks truly do have a connection to caregiving in so many ways. Like a pebble thrown into the water, the ripples created remind us we will all be touched by caregiving sometime in our lives.

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