A few weeks ago, a person I use to think of as a friend (wink, wink) asked if I would consider speaking a luncheon and day of refreshing for caregivers. It was to be be held at a local rehab facility-the type for people who can no longer take care of their own basic needs. I immediately texted back in all caps NO THANK YOU but that I would pray…
Individual conversations? Love them.
Parties or social events? Yep, love those as well.
Stand or sit in front of people and talk. NO THANK YOU!
As you may have guessed within moments of receiving the invitation I started composing my thoughts and eventually contacted Missy, my former pal, to accept her gracious offer.
Below is what I shared that day to a sweet group of people in the throes of the hard stuff. I know I was the blessed one as we had breakout groups later in the morning and I saw the commitment and struggle that this group of people wrestle with on a daily basis.
Before I speak to you about being a caregiver I would like to tell you a few of my qualifications as well of some of my family members. Please do not allow yourself to be intimidated- we all have our own journey and strengths. I am just going to mention a few of the more unique ones that came to mind when asked to talk with you today.
My dad had hip replacement twice. At one point in his recovery I nearly ejected him from his hospital bed at Blake. It was at this point that my quiet male parental unit was heard to say in a rather loud voice, “Stand back!~ Please don’t help” Well, THAT was rather ungrateful of him!
My mom also had health issues which required monitoring and care. She lived locally, was widowed by then and because of our large family she did not need to spend too much time in a facility. She depended on one grandson in particular who had a flexible schedule and lived nearby. There was the incident when she called him to say she was having chest pains so he called 911 on her behalf and drove there as quickly as he could. Unfortunately, his jeep engine caught on fire on 59th street so he called his brother to get there to help Grammy. As all of this was occurring my husband drove by in his work truck and saw our jeep, our son and emergency vehicles all in one place. Not good.
Yes, we are the ones you want to call on when help is needed!
I have 5 kids. Two of them needed wisdom teeth pulled around the same time. I scheduled both of them to have the extractions on the same day. There were a few reasons for this. For one thing, I did not want one child to have the procedure done and then recount in micro detail what the other would be expected to encounter. The other more important reason, if I’m to be honest, is that I figured that by scheduling the procedures on the same day I would only have to be nice one or two days.
I did not sign up for any care-taking duties because I love medical stuff or because I am good at it. Truth be told, I never signed up for it at all- People I love needed to be helped or cared for and I was able to offer my meager assistance. It is not as if caretaking, at least in my case, happened because I had nothing else to do one day. I went to college for education and stayed as far away from the medical field as possible!
The family members and friends I have been able to help have been so grateful. Since January my husband, whom I lovingly refer to as MOMD-Man of My Dreams, had rotator cuff surgery twice on the same shoulder and is now facing hip replacement. Soon I will have bionic man as my husband…but I digress. Every day, for months, he said thank you repeatedly for the ways I was able to assist.
You may not receive verbal thanks for what you do or have done. I know it is not why you have done or continue to be a caretaker. However, I would like to thank you on behalf of those you help. Perhaps the person or people to whom you have extended help have never been caretakers. If that is the case he or she has no clue as to how exhausting it can be-physically and emotionally. Maybe he or she is unable to communicate thanks.
As I’ve mulled over what I might say to you today it occurred to me that just as you or I may have never wanted to be a caretaker, the person or persons for whom we care have never wanted to be a patient. He or she doesn’t like it any more than you do. When we follow the golden rule of doing unto others as we would want them to do unto us we are able to offer grace and dignity.
As caretakers we need help. It is often hard to accept that we can’t do it all and that when assistance is offered it is wise to accept it. When our son offered to take Grammy to some of her doctor appointments I said yes. When my sister offered to use Family Leave to come and stay with Mom I said yes. I realized that I was tired and that if someone else wanted to help I was happy to admit that help was appreciated. I’ve seen caretakers who thought only he/she could do everything. “Nobody does it better “ might be a great song by Carly Simon but when it comes to themes for caretakers perhaps, “Help! I Need Somebody” by the Beatles might be a healthier choice for both caretaker and patient.
Recently I thought back on times when I have been a caretaker. These are a few of the emotions or thoughts that I experienced. Maybe you are able to relate to one or two.
Feeling like I wanted it to end-and then guilt that I felt that way
Joy when there was a bit of improvement, mightily disappointed by setbacks
Grateful for the privilege
Overwhelmed with information and yet not feeling that I knew all I needed to know to make a good decision.
At one point, while trying to juggle my family responsibilities, work and my Mom’s care my cousin called me on the phone and said, “I want you to remember this conversation after your mom is gone. You are doing all you can and she appreciates it so much. In the future I don’t want you to berate yourself for what you didn’t do.”
I listened and thanked her for that. It wasn’t until 6 months after my mom had passed away and I was at her house, cleaning things out that the words had the impact my cousin intended.
Because what was I thinking as I sat on the couch, organizing photos and papers?
Why I didn’t come and clean her house every week and why I didn’t do this and that? Basically berating myself for what I didn’t do!
Fortunately, I heard my cousin’s voice in my mind, wiped my tears and thanked the Lord for the things I was able to do with and for my Mom. I hope that these words will resonate with you as well.
This stuff has been rattling around in my brain for a long time now. It has been an ongoing discussion with my husband’s fabulous surgeon.
I write a blog and have devoted a short series to caretaking, etc.
The first installment was loosely based on What Would Jesus Do and was entitled WWSS (What would surgeon say?) in response to my husband’s shoulder surgeries.
The second part was WWPS-What would patient say and included things I heard MOMD say. For example:
I’m doing the best I can. I don’t like all that you have to do to help me right now. I’m scared.
The final installment was WWCS. Yep! What would caretaker say? You may click on the link if you missed it!
And then I wrapped it up.
I close by commending you for your endurance! Laugh when you can! Accept help. Cry when you need to.
And what ever you do, unless you love speaking in front of people (I do not) don’t let Missy know that you think about this stuff or she’ll have you up here talking.