Nursing: Caring, Active Love

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By: Joop Gruen

Three years of night duty gave me a great perspective on care. Night gives us a different rela­tionship to ourselves and to the world around us. It throws us back on our­selves. During the day all our estab­lished roles prevail. At night quiet rules, time passes slowly, and caregiver and patient meet directly and inten­sively. In the stillness of the night, faced with one another, they recall that they are human individualities, each alone in their skin. And yet the caregiver is completely at the service of the patient. That is why, in Holland, nurses are called "Sister" or "Brother."

Care is archetypal. Life without care is unthinkable. Life must be nur­tured and cared for so it can survive. Quality of care knits the purely physi­cal body with the etheric (vital) body.

When we go to sleep we let go of consciousness, but our etheric remains ever present and active, nurturing the physical body without pause. Care means supporting the etheric life body when it weakens in its work.
Normally we trust that our bodies are taken care of while we sleep. Dur­ing illness the caregiver remains wake­ful and present to supplement what the etheric body cannot quite manage.

The Art of Caring
Instinctive or intuitive caregiving is almost a thing of the past. Parents take birthing courses to learn how to take care of their newborn. Just one hundred years ago people didn't have to do that.. They simply knew how. Ancient, 'primitive' cultures had an instinctive understanding of the world, including illness. It was part of life. Relearning the art of caring for others belongs to one of the greatest cultural challenges of our time.

Home Care:
Opportunities and Challenges
Whoever wants to take care of someone else needs resolve and prepa­ration. The payoff is enrichment be­yond any theory. However home care needs professional support and teach­ing or it can become materially, tech­nically, and humanly burdensome. A lay caregiver needs to have an under­standing of the illness as well as rec­ognition of his/her own limitations.

Washing, Water
Cleansing is an archetypal care activity. How do you wash and refresh the bedridden person? Tap water is no longer as healing as well or spring wa­ter once was. However the bath essences of Weleda or Wala enhance the washing water tremendously. They contain true etheric oils. Thus a bath with Rosemary stimulates the circula­tion in a way that involves the whole person while Lavender Bath has the opposite effect; it relaxes and calms, and helps with sleep.

Touch as an Expression of Trust
Touching someone's skin can call forth shyness and uncertainty. We find life easiest to touch while it is still "in­nocent" a baby or young child. Touching an adult in a care situation is harder, and yet touch is perhaps the most central element in care. The caregiver touches the patient without demanding anything in return. This is the mystery of serving, mediating be­tween life necessity and individual dignity.

A rhythmic embrocation reminds the patient that he/she is a higher be­ing, separate from the age or condition of the physical body. It appeals directly to their higher individuality, and can initiate healing. The patient decides freely how and if to react, and almost always they do have the longing to re­act, and so create the basis, out of their own strength, to change and heal them­selves.

Joop Gruen, from Holland, has been nursing in anthroposophical clinics for the past 21 years. Reprinted with kind permission: Weleda Nachrichten.

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