Faith, friends and fur babies

What do these words have in common? According to the amazing caregivers who answered my FaceBook shout-out, these are all ways of finding peace when you’re between a rock and the hard place of caregiving. Read on for even more wisdom from caregivers just like you. Many thanks to everyone for being so generous with your time and your words!


I kept a list of goals accomplished, because you do accomplish things . A brief list of achievements reinforces that you are indeed effective. Cathy G

You must find someone to take over your caregiving for an hour, a day, or a weekend so that you can do something for yourself. Ginni B

One word – family. My mother’s illness and eventual death brought my brothers and me such closeness that I almost think she planned it that way. Brenda B

Laughter is THE best medicine. Look for it. It’s there! Cathy S

Make a self soothing box. Find a pretty box (any size you prefer). Put inside the box things that soothe you Like: candle,scented lotion,picture of your loved one when they were young, rock from a vacation, cork from a bottle of wine that holds a story etc.  Sheila A

Reaching out for help. I simply asked people to text me to relax, or breathe, or pray…whenever they thought of me randomly during the day. Becky D

Only the grace and mercy of God keeps me going when I want to quit. Ruth H

Without laughter where would we be?  In the end it’s the only thing that helps us hang on longer. Cathy C

Watching Master of None and laughing till it hurts!!! We are more than the fixer, the caregiver, the one who must make decisions. Enee A

My “calm” has always been music. Whether studying it, playing it, or merely listening and appreciating it, music transcends all boundaries. Chris A

I’m still working on that. Jen K

Taking time to look through pictures of past memories. Remembering wonderful times with friends and family. This can renew your soul. Denise H

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Liz L

Scheduling 15 minutes of “me” time. Catherine B

I cry, I call my friends who lift my spirits up, I hold & kiss my cat, I sit on my deck admiring the beautiful view, I read late at night, I make a dessert…… it’s little things that add up that gets me through. Eve T

The peace is found knowing that what you are doing is the ultimate labor of love. When it is over, you will miss so much of what you did so lovingly. Elizabeth M

Prayer. Jac D

“Recognize the Lord’s presence in the difficult times, and give Him the glory. See how even the things we think of as setbacks are all part of His perfect plan for our lives. Susan C

Sometimes all I can do is simply breathe and rely on the only One who can see me through that very moment. Jana S

My sweet golden and chocolate help me work through it. Each of us has to find our own path to acceptance of hard choices. Debra R

I no longer think of myself as a caregiver, which implies duty, but rather as performing the work that He has given me for today. Tom M

My favorite bible verse “I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me.” Helen H

The motto we used through 5 brain surgeries and subsequently 6 months in the hospital: TODAY IS NOT FOREVER. TODAY IS JUST TODAY. Lori R

I pray, then get busy with what God would have me do for that day. Roxanne M

I can stand anything for a little while!! Good times do not last forever and neither do bad ones!! Sharon D

I love him more than enough and I can love him through this. Judith R

On-line support, friends, and prayers. Michele L

A walk or some outdoor activity. Nanette H

The beautiful tile painting of a dove was found at a friend’s home. 

 

A Caregiver’s Caregiver

Colleen Kavanaugh headshot

If you feel like you’re wading through quicksand sometimes, here’s Part Two of my interview with Colleen Kavanaugh of The Longest Dance. Relatable and compassionate, her experience in helping other caregivers find solid ground offers a sense of hope that you can see this caregiving journey through and come out stronger on the other side. It’s reassuring to know that’s possible. 

What is your advice to someone who is new to this journey? Get help. I like to use the example of hospitals and other care facilities to illustrate that it takes a village. These communities have a staff of hundreds to handle the care of each patient or resident. One person isn’t assigned to care for another. One person handles a component of care. And, that person doesn’t work 24/7. In whatever way you are able to supplement care or hire out for certain chores and responsibilities, do it. Have experts you can call on for certain issues like legal and financial matters. Think of your caregiving role as a manager building a team of support for you and your caree. Try to remember that you don’t know what you don’t know. But know that you know enough to know you need help.

It’s easy to lose our other selves when we’re caregiving.  Share something about you that is unrelated to the caregiving role. Being at the beach, any beach, is my happy place. And I love eating fabulous food. In fact, I am doing this interview with you while waiting in line at Franklin Barbeque in Austin, Texas. While I wouldn’t have flown to another state for barbecue as a caregiver, I did allow myself to rent a beach town’s teeny tiniest bargain rate cottage 8 blocks from the ocean that was just a 20-minute further drive to my Dad, who was at that time in a nursing home during what would be his last summer. I was able to be with him daily, but return to my happy place and give my son a bit of a vacation. I share this story to show that there are ways to creatively sneak in your own joy during what can be the most difficult time of your life. Maybe it’s a class that meets at a time when you are able to get care coverage, or a two-night getaway when a sibling comes to town and can stay with your parent or loved one. Even just a quick manicure before you head into the grocery store can make a difference.

Artists aren’t the only ones with creative gifts. For some, it’s painting or music. For others, it’s making people feel comfortable or cared for. What’s your gift? Maybe a bit like you, Judith, as a “hyper-responsible oldest child,” I have a gift for being hyper-organized. I love connecting with others, and when that connection comes with the opportunity to help them organize their desk, sock drawer or now – medical records, I am in heaven. I am invincible with a well-crafted list and was known at my parent’s doctor’s offices as, “That girl with the clipboard.” Inefficiency drives me wild, and as you can imagine, the unpredictability of caregiving tested my patience like nothing else. Organization was truly my best friend. Don’t underestimate the power of your natural gifts to assist you during your time as a family caregiver! Reflecting back on my experience, if I had to do it all over again, I would tell myself each day to:

 

  • Acknowledge your role
  • Prepare as best as you are able
  • Look for the light within the dark – it is there
  • Subversively sneak in joy whenever and wherever you are able
  • Lead your team to support you and the person for whom you care
  • Use your natural talents to help in your own uniquely empowering way

And know, above all else, that you’ve got what it takes.
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I am living proof, and you will be too!