Lions, tigers, and support groups, oh my!
I have to admit, I didn’t attend a monthly caregiver’s support group while I cared for my mom. Why?
I guess you can chalk it up to my preacher’s kid background, but I’m about meeting’ed out. I was a notorious school skipper in high school and I still have problems sitting through events where one person talks and everyone else has to listen, stand up, sit down, and clap on que. (Unless I’m the one doing the talking…and even then, I’m sensitive to people’s time and attention spans).
For some reason, I’m either the slacker in the back of the room doodling on her notebook and making snide comments about everyone in the class–or I’m the front-row suck-up nerd hogging all the teacher’s attention. One or the other–on any given day.
I hate meeting rooms. They look like cages to me. Cages to pace in, to plot my breakout and lunge at innocent gawkers. I’m more of a “Born Free” kind of lion. (remember that old song, boomers?)
I start hyperventilating at the sight of a banquet table and metal chairs placed around it, or worse, a “sharing circle” lit by a flourescent light and tired looking folks staring at one another–I want to go screaming out into the sunlight, find the nearest park, beach, or river and take a walk, that or go buy a triple expresso and power shop.
It’s not that I don’t realize that sharing your experience and working through the stresses, frustraitons, questions, and heartaches of caregiving isn’t important. I know it is, but as my southern Mama always said:
“There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”
Remember the Dr. Suess book, If I Ran the Zoo? Well, I guess I’ve always wanted to be a zoo-keeper.
So, here’s how I would run a support group. (dream scenario)
There would be couches, not metal chairs.
There would always be food and drink–and not just grocery store bought cookies.
There would be beautiful artwork.
There would be fresh flowers.
There would be music playing (sometimes jazz, sometimes, oldies, sometimes classical).
Stickers would be given out for doing things for yourself–making a phonecall, signing up for a class, etc. You would get to stand up, announce what you did for you, and get claps and/or hugs.
There would be show and tell–your latest photograph of your garden, a drawing, mom’s broach, Dad’s WWII medals, etc.
We’d share our favorite poems, books, recipes, and movie suggestons. Conversation would free flow. There would be laughter.
We’d have a gripe session and start off with cues such as:
“You wanna know what bugs me?!”
We’d throw eachother a potato to keep it going and anger would get a clap–we need to use our frustrations as energy so they won’t implode on us.
We’d have guest speakers occasionally–but not all doctors and elder-care based. We’d have life coaches, a juggler who would teach us how to juggle, a policeman teaching us safety practices, a wardrobe consultant for you and your loved one…
We’d finish each session with either yoga or a walk or dancing. Movement is vital!
If I’m going to have to live at the zoo (aka, a caregiver’s life), then give me a comfy cage, and lots of play room.