How do we support the person we are caring for as we give them care? Hopefully, we knew them well enough before they were sick that we have some insight into how to do that. But their illness may have changed them. Some of the changes are temporary, such as depression, if it is dealt with, or reactions to medications which may not always be as obvious. Other changes may be more permanent as those that come with strokes and brain injuries. But even then, healing can occur with good rehab and time. We may not be able to support in the same ways as before…or they may not be able to receive that support in the same ways as they once did.
If she is one who receives support by conversation, you may need to make times to sit with your loved one to converse, even if it is one-sided. Having a five or ten-minute routine where you sit together with coffee or tea and you visit, telling her about what has been happening…in the family, the community, the world. She will enjoy the time and hearing the news. If you enjoy conversation, you will enjoy rehearsing the news even though you won’t get the feedback. If you are not this kind of person, it will take some time to learn how to do it. You may even need to make notes for yourself.
Think about hearing issues when you talk to your loved one and take precautionary action
Keep in mind that the person you love may have hearing issues even if they didn’t before their illness. Illness, brain injury, medications, can all affect hearing. Sometimes, it is temporary, at others, it is permanent. So be sure you are sitting in a place where they can see your mouth and pick up from your lips what you are saying. With COVID, all of us have learned how much we “hear” by watching others’ mouths. It isn’t just the hearing impaired who read lips. The rest of us do too!
As I have aged and had some milder hearing loss, I find that simply increasing the volume, doesn’t always help. Often, it is clarity we need. I learned this from my husband who learned it from his mom. In his preaching, he spoke slower and more distinctly than normal. For some, it may have been irritating, but for those who were hard of hearing, they loved it. They often said they were able to hear his sermons without all the added mikes.
My husband’s mother lost her hearing early and his hearing loss came early-ish too. Instead of being more forthcoming, he tried to hide it…much to my chagrin! It was one secret he wouldn’t let me tell! Did you know that often people can seem like they are becoming senile simply because they can’t hear? So if you have someone you know that seems confused or “losing it” mentally, don’t jump to conclusions. Have their hearing checked. It could be their problem. (That was free information.)
Pay attention to what kinds of things encourage and support your loved one and what kinds of things deflate him.
It is important for us to remember that each of us has different ways we give and receive support in different situations. For some, simple words of “Good job” can be very encouraging when they are working hard to relearn skills that seem so rudimentary. For others, it takes more hugging and physical showing of affection to help them feel encouraged. Still others find it hard to believe they are doing well when you compliment them as family members, because they think you have to encourage them. It may take awhile for you to find the ways that work best in your situation. Watching a football game on TV might be the start of normalcy for one person. For another, they won’t feel normal again until they can get out of the house. That makes it doubly hard in these days of COVID!
Also pay attention to the things you do that dishearten your loved one. When I answer for my husband at the doctor’s office, he really hates it. He would rather answer a question wrong and have me tactfully mention that maybe the timing on his answer is off a bit, than to speak for him. It is a huge thing for him…and I suspect it is big for a lot of people.
Also, most people really hate to be spoken of in the third person when they are sitting right there. This goes double if they can’t talk. Does it feel awkward to talk to them and not get an answer? Yes. But if we ask yes/no questions, we can get some interaction. Using a word board will give even more interaction. It will slow down the conversation, but what they need is interaction, not to be treated as an inanimate object.
This is a recommended magnetic word tool you can use. Look online and you will be able to find others. This one can be used for writing poetry if they are creative. Of course, if they can use the computer, a tablet or the phone, there are quite a variety of apps for talking or writing out what you want to say.
Don’t let your busyness get in the way of showing affection and supporting your loved one
As a nurse, I’m not used to hugging my patients. When caring for Ron, I often get into nurse mode and then remember, “Wait, this is Ron!” Then I hug him or kiss him after helping him sit or stand up. For those of us who get too focused on the job, it’s important to remember the importance of giving support to the person we are caring for and learning what kind of support they want and need. Yes, I know I’m repeating myself (haha).
More recently, as Ron has been reading more, I try to make time to have him talk to me about what he is reading. He seems to remember what he is reading pretty well. I enjoy hearing about the books he is reading. I’m trying to make a point of talking to him about events I hear about.Don't let busyness get in the way of showing affection and supporting your loved one. Click To Tweet
Before, I was reading about things that happened on Facebook with friends we have known for years. But I forgot to tell him about them. Lately, I’m trying to make time to sit down with him and talk for about 10 or 15 minutes every so often to talk about what has been happening or what I have read recently on Facebook. He enjoys hearing that news. It keeps him connected to what is going on as well.
Today an old friend called. Not all her news was happy news, but we had a wonderful conversation. After, I went to talk to him for awhile about the conversation. I just laid on the bed and talked to him for awhile. It was great for him and me.So try to think of ways you can give the support your loved one needs in ways he can receive it. Click To Tweet
Sometimes, as we give support and help make connections for our loved one, we end up being encouraged and feeling hopeful. One day, I realized that while there are discouraging aspects to our situation, my husband is still here for me to talk to and hug.
It’s not far-fetched to ask for help from your pastoral staff on occasion
Another way to give support is to pray together or if you have both been going through a hard time, ask someone from the pastoral staff of your church to come visit. Sometimes, that is needed. I don’t recommend that you ask every week of course. But if both of you are down at the same time, it is certainly wise to ask for help from the staff of your church. Be honest with them about where you both are and how you are struggling. Often, there are things they can do to help. Coming to visit and pray with you is one of those things. You aren’t too unimportant to be seen or helped.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with ways to support your loved one…and sometimes fail…
Try to think of ways you can give the support your loved one needs in ways he can receive it. It will take some experimenting. This is one way your children or grandchildren can be helpful as well…if they are in your home or nearby. During some of Ron’s hospital stays, his local and distant grands, sent cards they made. They were so sweet and encouraging. Their hugs were encouraging. Often you don’t know what they do that will be supportive.
This is when your church family do encouraging things that you would never dream of, can be very helpful and encouraging. They can often pray for you, call you and do the kindest things you would never think to ask for. If they offer to do something that would actually help you, gratefully accept it as from the Lord. Don’t deny them the joy of helping you enjoy the privilege of ministering to you in kindness because you don’t want to inconvenience them. Assume they offered the favor because they wanted to do it.
You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
Now, where do you get the support you need to keep giving support?
Come back next week and we will talk about that.
**This post was part of a series I wrote in 2017 on caretaking. I edited it for today, but if you would like to read more posts on this topic, Click here to land on the page that has a link to all the posts in that series. Now I prefer to use the term caregiving rather than caretaking because it sounds more personal, but I have way too many links to my posts to be able to change them all now. I just changed this one.