Imagine Being Donald Trump's Caregiver

Trump's hateful words. Getty

Put aside Donald Trump’s politics, entertainment value and questionable ethics. Now imagine you’re caring for someone with his personality: arrogant, dishonest, unappreciative, explosive, combative, unapologetic, insensitive, etc. Worse, this person is your loved one.

Leaning Into Sharp Points

My hospice assignment was to care for an elderly man with stage IV lung cancer. He was a white supremacist; I was an aging political radical from the 1960’s.

Each of us was the embodiment of what the other despised.

I could have refused the assignment, but I didn’t. My caring for him would be a test of my ability to be compassionate, and it would offer a unique learning experience. In hospice, I learned an important axiom: The more discomfort I sense, the more important the lesson. Caring for the man changed my life.

When We Can’t Withdraw

Sometimes there is the opportunity to withdraw from a caregiving situation, such as I could have done as a hospice volunteer. But for people with limited finances, there is no choice.

As a nation, we undervalue the importance of caregiving. If we didn’t, government support for home care wouldn’t be controversial. Even when it’s possible to hire professional caregivers, the emotional draw of a loved one often pulls caregivers into disastrous situations.

So what do you do if there isn’t an option and the person you are involved with has the personality of Donald Trump?

Anyone who follows Trump’s bombastic comments understands his criticism of others goes well beyond what was warranted; whether it’s firing someone on a television show, calling a fellow Republican an idiot, or telling a disposing attorney her need to pump milk for her infant was “disgusting.”

When the Criticisms are "Trumpish"

While we can dismiss Trump’s comments as self-serving, it’s much more difficult for us to ignore critical comments of a loved one we have sacrificed much for—whether for financial or emotional reasons.

Instead of viewing their comments as an accurate reflection on our abilities, reframe them as a reflection of their needs.

Years ago I tried crossing a meadow in Yosemite after a hard rain. I didn’t realize hidden pools of water formed in the meadow’s pockets. What looked like a small puddle was a three-foot hole draining surface water.

In many ways, the analogy works for those for whom we care. As worlds shrink and changes in identity transform a once adoring partner into a demanding stranger, we think “What did I do wrong?” As caregivers, we’re too willing to place blame on ourselves rather than view the problem as stemming from our loved one’s losses.

From my racist hospice patient, I learned how personal history affects identity. While I couldn’t feel compassion for him, I could understand why he believed as he did. Understanding rather than compassion allowed me to care for him until he died.

When our loved one hurls insults, is unappreciative, or displays any of Trump’s cruel personality characteristics, think of the meadow in Yosemite.

Their personality problems were hidden during better times. As important aspects of their life begin to leave, the holes fill with anger over their loss.

The expression of anger is rarely about you. It’s about  your loved one’s history, current identity and fear of the future. Whenever you hear something unjustified, try to understand it’s origin or just think “Donald Trump.”

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