I settle into my seat in church, often a few minutes late. I try to pat my fly away hair into place and straighten my clothes. This morning has been rushed again. Of course, you barely know me. We exchange smiles.
I try to calm my rapidly beating heart. My husband is seated next to me. He looks fine. His clothes are in place. The last I looked, that wild spot on the back of his head wasn’t sticking out…yes, it is finally lying down!
Sunday mornings are often wild! We get up extra early on Sundays. 7:30 AM! That’s very early for us. I take my shower and wash my hair the night before, but he doesn’t. His pace was always slow and deliberate. Now it is even slower! Combine that with forgetful and it can take a very long time to get ready to go anywhere. If I am out of the room when he is getting ready, he takes the opportunity to lie down again. He is always tired and often forgets he is getting ready for church…or whatever event we happen to be preparing for.
I need to stay on my toes. The time flies and if I don’t keep checking on him, he will be back on the bed, asleep. As the year has gone by since his stroke, this is one problem that has not improved…some days it is worse!
Ways you can support a caregiver:
- One way you can offer support to me, is to interact with my family member. In my case, my husband was a pastor. He was used to being busy and needed on Sundays. It is not easy for him to be sitting around on a Sunday morning. He likes to have something to do. At some point, he won’t be able to get out and do things, but he can now. And he benefits from time with people other than me…especially other men. Men relate to each other in different ways than women do. He loves that. One way you can offer support to this caretaker, is to interact with my loved one. Click To Tweet
- When you see an older person bent over with little expression, you may be looking at a disease process or depression, not dementia. You may be looking at the disease, not the person inside. People with a wooden or stony look to their face often have Parkinson’s Disease. But if you ask them a question, they will be able to tell you a lot about their life or interests. Or a face without much expression can be the face of depression. If you can get them talking about themselves, you may see them start to become animated again. Don’t assume they are unaware of their surroundings just because they are old or have little expression. Start conversing with them along the lines of their interests and you may be surprised what you learn…and how encouraged they will be.
- What team do they follow? What is their favorite TV show? What books do they enjoy? What are their hobbies? They are still the people they were when they were healthy, they just look different on the outside. Find the areas of commonality and work from there. Find ways to join them for those games. Your family can bring popcorn or an appropriate food, for their favorite team they watch and cheer them on. You can get together to watch that favorite TV show one night and bring a snack they are able to eat. It will cheer up the caregiver and their loved one. This goes double for a child who is sick
- Decide who you are going to support directly, but don’t ignore the other person. For example, you may have been friends of the caregiver. Most likely, you will want to give her support in some way. But part of supporting her is also to be friendly and communicate to her loved one. Or maybe you were friends of the person who is now sick or infirm. You will want to support them for sure in ways you will know to support them based on your friendship. However, you will also want to encourage the person caring for him too. It is rarely an either/or thing, particularly if it is a husband/wife situation.
- Make sure you speak directly to the person who is ill, particularly if they are affected neurologically. Don’t talk around them.I have found that patients who have had strokes or other brain injuries are often very sensitive to and aware of people who talk down to them. Just because a person can’t talk to you doesn’t mean they don’t understand everything you are saying to them. Is it difficult to communicate with them when they can’t talk back? Of course. But nothing is more irritating than someone talking down to you… especially if you know them.
Caregivers are going through grief, including: denial, anger, bargaining, depression or acceptance. Click To Tweet
- Another way to support both caregiver and the loved one is to pray for with us and for us. Patience is a great thing to pray for, for both of us. As a caregiver, I have often felt the need to just be calm at times I might want to panic. It may be at times when Ron has fallen, or something happens and I’m not sure if it is an emergency or not. I just need a few moments to collect myself and be calm before moving on. Wisdom is another thing I have needed as a caregiver. Is now the time to go to the ER? I’m not sure. And at other times, I need God’s provision for my need. Sometimes, it is physical strength, emotional strength, another human being…it can be any number of things at a given time.
- There is nothing better than a visit…by phone or in person. I’m rewriting this during the days of COVID as the year has dragged on. I’m not completely stuck at home. But people don’t come by to visit these days. I often get to church. But there was a period when COVID was very high in the community and we didn’t get out as much, not even to church. It was very lonely.
- Another way of giving support to the caregiver is by helping her or him learn skills they need to do their job. Often he didn’t cook much over the years and is now learning to cook. Maybe you and some friends can help him learn some easy recipes that fit within diet constraints they both have. It is stressful having to learn new skills at the same time you are taking on new responsibilities. In my case, I had to learn how to manage the money. Although we discussed how we spent the money, Ron always paid the bills and managed it all. It has been a very stressful job to take on at this point in my life. My children have helped me learn. But not everyone has children nearby.
- Recognize that both the caregiver and probably the one being cared for are going through their own stages of grief. They need a friend and encourager or two. They will be up and down emotionally. Some days angry, other days incredibly sad. It is not easy or pretty. It is often a messy place to be. If you are able to be this kind of friend, you are worth your weight in gold. It is not a process that is over and done, It meanders. It’s up and down, all around, and back again. It doesn’t let up. Your whole body is affected
Grief is an emotional process. Superimposed on it are the demands of the health condition of her loved one. She may also be stressed by financial demands as well as having to learn new skills to live her new life. So today, she is in denial, tomorrow, depression, the next day anger. If you are her friend, hang in with her and realize it is not personal. Just feed her truth and love her. As time goes by, she will get through it…by the grace of GOD!
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Click this link for the other days in the 31 DAYS OF CARE TAKING: ONE DAY AT A TIME.