Posts Tagged ‘caring for the caregiver’

Caring for the caregiver is almost as intense as being a caregiver. 

Family. Extended family. Friends. Neighbors. Co-workers. Church and community.

A caregiver needs a wide net. Even if they only send good thoughts and prayers, (there’s no “only” to it–thoughts and prayers may be the most important gift of all). 

The wider your care circle the more you feel and can draw on their love and strength. You know you’re not alone. 

I’m sitting in a hospital room with my daughter and granddaughter. I’m on “Team Lucy,” as my two week old g’baby recovers from open heart surgery. My daughter’s role is to be here for her daughter, to be her voice and her protector. My role is to care for my daughter and son-in-law. I’ve got their back.

I make sure my daughter eats, that she pumps (she’s breastfeeding), that she gets out of the room, if just for a few minutes a day, to distract her, help her laugh, let her vent, hold her when she cries. I bring her food, refill her water bottle, cover her with a blanket, sit up and watch the baby’s monitors so she can rest knowing that someone who loves this little one is keeping guard. 

Debee, a dear friend and lifecoach asked me, “Your daughter is caring for her daughter and you’re caring for your daughter, but who’s caring for you?” The care circle widens. 

Our family has been on high alert and we’ve burned through all our emotions and physical energy in the last week. If it weren’t for the connections we feel with each other and with our circle I believe it would too, too easy to succumb to the fear and dread that lurks around every thought. 

Caring for a caregiver means paying attention to details–food, sleep, medication and other “doctorly” info, squelching runaway worries,and soothing crazy thinking, and being there when the waves of overwhelming grief inevitably arise. 

It means not being too somber or too silly. 

It means being strong at times, comforting at others.

It means delegating and calling in the “tribe.”

It means being the one that information is filtered to and then sent out. It means listening. It means choosing your words wisely–not flinging fear or trying to fix things, or taking over. 

I’ve been a caregiver so I know what it means to give and receive care. I’ve had the blessing of being  surrounded by those who love you. It means everything. 




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It’s so easy to make dozens of resolutions you know you won’t keep. It’s even easier to beat yourself up about not losing those ten (okay fifteen) pounds, not staying on budget, not cleaning your closet, and if you’re a caregiver, mom or daughter–not losing your patience every ten minutes. But all that guilt and regret doesn’t get you closer to your goals. So why not try a little reverse psychology? Why not try an anti-New Year’s resolution list?

 My grandmother used to say that the best way to get me to do something was to tell me that I had to do the opposite. She was my birth grandmother–before I was adopted–which means I was under the age of four and probably my purest self. That means that I need to tap into that inner rebel and get that little imp on my side.

I’m tired to trying to “good.” Trying and good don’t really go together. To  be truly good comes from a natural place–from deeply held beliefs about yourself and the world.  Trying is exhausting and tedious–and it always falls apart.

So I’ve created an anti-New Year’s list.

 My Anti-New Year’s Resolution List:

I will not diet.

Instead, I’ll be sure to start each day with a protein and a good carb–peanut butter, boiled egg, or if I’m rushed–a handful of nuts. I can combine that with a piece of fruit or whole grain bread. Eating a hearty breakfast is the best way to not gorge the rest of the day.  

I will not exercise.

Instead, I’ll play. I’ll ride my bike, play kickball in the street, dance in the kitchen to my iPod, and bounce on my giant ball during the commercials. I’ll race my husband to the mailbox, clean out the gutters and plant a garden. I’ll move because it feels good, not because I think I should. My goal is to play–every day.

I will not keep a perfect house.

I don’t even want to. I used to admire those with shiny kitchen floors and feel inferior to those “other women” who woke up perky and had the toilet swished and the dishwasher unloaded before 7am. Now I consider a “too clean” house a serious waste of the precious time I’m allotted on earth.

Instead, I’m going for the basket method. I allow the magazines to pile up, and I won’t even think about getting rid of them until they reach the top of the basket–at that point, I’ll start ditching. I’ll do the same basket method with toys, shoes, and bathroom toiletries. If it’s in a basket, it’s good enough. I find that I do better when I don’t worry about it. If you show up at my house, I’ll offer you a glass of wine or a cup of hot tea–and I’ll sit with you on the couch or in the backyard, and that for me, is what a home is for–a place where people feel welcome.  

I will not force myself to do anything I really don’t want to do.

I will trust my gut. I have pretty good instincts about most folks. I need to honor that. If I don’t want to go to lunch with that person, I won’t. If I don’t want to get my teeth cleaned that day, I won’t. Life is tough right now, and I need to give myself a break. By allowing little breaks, I won’t have a major meltdown and do something really stupid. By realizing I can say “no,” if I want to, I find that I’m usally glad to say “yes” simply because I have a choice.

I will not beat myself up about not being  or doing “enough.”  

 Everyone has different expectations of me. It’s my job to look at the bigger picture–and prioritize. As a wife, mom, daughter, caregiver, friend, and professional–I’ve found that each person has a myopic view of me. All of us see ourselves as the center of our own universe. They don’t always consider all that I have to do, or what someone else might need me more at that moment.  I don’t need to get upset with them. It’s my job to find the right balance for me–not theirs. I don’t even have to explain or defend myself. What I do have to do is to care for those I love–including myself–the best I can and trust that will be enough even when others don’t think it is.

The more I believe in myself, the more peace I project onto this rag-tag world.

Yeah, I know it sounds like I’m just tricking myself, but it works for me. I’m able to back into self-care and wholeness and it doesn’t feel like a big ordeal. By being defiant and saying “I will not,” I can actually fool myself for a split second and then I’m free to choose something I really believe in.

Are there times when I really have to ante up and do things I don’t want to do but need to do for myself or for someone I love? Sure, lots of times. But if I’ve allowed myself enough lee-way at other times I find that I have the strength and fortitude to follow through when I need to. 

My list of “I will not’s” allows my three-year old self to come out and play.  She’s much more agreeable after she’s had some time to romp free.

 Who knew that embracing your inner rebel could be such a good thing!

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