Friday, November 22, 2013

Caregiving 101: The Holidays

Caregiving 101: The Holidays

         The Holidays.  A time of great food, wonderful memories, and a whole lot of stress!!  As a caregiver, the added responsibilities of the extra activities during Thanksgiving and Christmas can be overwhelming.  And some days, no matter how hard we try, it just is too much to do. 

       It is with this added stress and demands that we caregivers can loose our composure, our focus, and our temper!  This is not what we want and the added stress of guilt over our sharp words or our attitude is just another burden that we don't need!

       First impulse is to cancel everything - including the sunrise if you could!  But when other family is involved, including spouse and especially children, ignoring the holiday and canceling family traditions is unfair and disappointing even to those who tell you it doesn't matter.  It does matter.  Life indeed goes on, and keeping the routine helps keep life more "normal".

       If you have extended family and they invite you to share their Holiday Dinner, accept!  You don't have to always be the designated hostess!  Sharing a meal in someone else's home can be a great experience for you, your family, and your loved one.

       If your situation is such that you will be doing the dinner and hostessing, keep expectations realistic - for everyone involved, especially yourself!  Scaling back and making things more simplistic can be a lot less stressful and still make for memorial moments.

       As everyone tells us when we have too much to do:  DELEGATE!   Include the family in the preparations, cooking, and clean up and let them help.  OK, they may not do it just as perfectly as we want it done, but that's alright! 

        If other people outside your household will be attending, enlist them to each bring a dish for the meal.  Everyone has a special thing they like to make, so invite them to make it and bring it.  It will add to the selection!

       If our focus is to make memories that will last a lifetime rather than have the most impressively set table and perfectly coordinated meal, we have accomplished what the Lord really wants us to do.  As someone told me once: 

             Use things and cherish people.
          Never cherish things and use people.

       The Holidays are indeed a special time.  We need to pray for the Lord to give us wisdom to do the things today that will be our precious memories tomorrow.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Caregiving 101: Respect and Honor - The Things We Do

     First let me say that my caregiving experience so far has been limited to caring for my mother and my husband; and my care of my husband has been limited to the times he has been recovering from pneumonia and broken bones.  While I am not experienced in caregiving of a disabled or terminally ill child, for a disabled or terminally ill spouse, or other loved one, I truly believe that respect and honor is vital for both the caregiver to give and the care receiver to receive, regardless of who we are caring for. 

     And many times, the respect and honor is unrequited.  But just because we give respect and honor and do not receive it in return does not exempt us from giving it!

     As we shared last time, respect and honor for our loved ones comes in many forms.  While saying "Yes, Mama", or "No, Mama", "Yes, Sir" or "No, Sir" is respectful and right to do, these are not the only ways to demonstrate it.

     When we prepare the foods they like (of course, within the guidelines of any special dietary restrictions), bring them some little special snack, ask their advice on their meal menu, these are all ways of respecting them.

     When we tell others of how precious they are, especially within their range of hearing, it builds their self-esteem and honors them.

     When we try to make them as comfortable as possible in their present situation, we respect them.

     When we read to them, talk with them, share our time with them, we are honoring them for who they are.

     My sister-in-law, Tina, is now involved in a very hard phase of caregiving.  Her mother has been placed in hospice care and the family is being counseled for the end of life situation that will undoubtedly come soon.  Rather than leave the custodial care and attempts at feeding to the hospice and nursing home staff, Tina daily prepares broth, jello, and juice and goes to be with her mother, spending hours trying to coax her mother to take just a sip of nourishment.  Tina still bathes her and sees to her custodial needs, talking to her, reading to her, and just being there.  This is honoring and respecting her mother.
     These acts of love and kindness are not just for the loved one receiving it, but for us, too.  Brushing your loved one's teeth or cleaning their soiled clothing can be humbling, but nothing is beneath you when you are caring for someone you love.  Tiring, yes; emotionally draining, oh yes!  But showing respect and honor for the loved one nurtures something vital in our soul and matures us in ways comfort and ease never will.

     As caregivers we have a tremendous opportunity to be at the same time a blessing and to be blessed by what we are doing in word, deed, and action for the ones we love.  May our Lord show us how to do what we do in such a way that we bless Him most of all!