Quick Advice for Caregivers


Okay, I just closed my eyes and asked what I should write about tonight. The “nudge” I got was that I should just pass on about five or six simple things I’ve learned in the past year and a half by being caregiver to my parents– this, so that if any of you are now or you will find yourself in this position, you might be helped by some of what I’ve learned.

1) It’s okay to step away and take a few private breaths. Several times when I was diapering and feeding my dad before he died, I would get overwhelmed with the memories of the history of our relationship and the gravity of what was happening in front of my eyes. It’s more than okay to take a few minutes (when possible of course) go off by yourself to breath or cry or pray.

2) Decide to not do it perfectly. If you’re human, you’re going to mess up. No one who’s not been in charge of someone else’s wellbeing can understand the pressure that comes with it– even in the best of circumstances. Let yourself off the hook from the beginning. The pressure to try to do it perfectly will only get in the way of your actually doing the best job you can.

3) When it’s very hard, focus on the love you have for the person you’re helping. Tonight my mother “summonsed” me to the rehab facility because she was bored and lonely. I spent five hours with her in the emergency room last night and when she called I was on a business call. I really just wanted to try to get caught up on some work stuff. When she called and said, “Are you okay? It’s just getting so late…” I literally bit the inside of my mouth until I could taste blood. I had to pause, breath, and remember who this woman is and why I’m doing what I’m doing. In short, focus on the love.

4) Reach out for help! I have a tendency to want to be Superman and do it all alone and without asking anyone for help of any kind. That’s not practical. If you don’t let other people step up when their able and give you a little break, even just to get away to the gym or for some alone time, you’ll burn out before you know it. If no one’s volunteering, ask for help.

5) Be an asshole. Have a good friend or two who knows you well enough to let you call and be as big an asshole as you can possibly be. These are the friends who can hold a space for you while you rant about how much you want to kill your loved one (or yourself) and how it’s all too hard and how you can’t possibly go on one more day with the mission. Use as many curse words as you know and be as spiritually un-evolved as possible. These are the friends that are smart enough not to try to fix or make you feel better. Their job is to listen and they get that. Scream and yell to your friends and then get back to work loving and helping the person who couldn’t get by without you.

6) Laugh. Things can get pretty intense when so much is expected from you physically and emotionally. It is absolutely essential that you get in some laughs as much as possible. I have a bizarre sense of humor so if left with my own mind for a few minutes, I can usually entertain myself by talking out loud with the voices of the many personalities that live inside my head. I crack myself up. (I know. Call the men in the white coats! But then who will take care of my mom?) If you’re not lucky enough to have a platoon of clowns in your head, find something that makes you laugh and do it frequently. It’s important too sometimes to just laugh at the situation and how hard it is! Laughter relieves tension and makes the heart light. As a side benefit, you’re then more likely to be able to pass on some of that joy to your loved one who, let’s face it, is facing one of the hardest if not the hardest thing they’ve ever had to confront.

I hope these things help. They are lessons hard-won. I’m grateful for the blessing of being able to be there for the people who are most important to me and grateful for the love of my Creator and the love and support of my extended Tribe.

See y’all tomorrow.

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