Thursday, July 26, 2012

How Do You Take Care of a Care Giver?

Every day after lunch, my Pappaw would load two plates of food in the car and take it to the nursing home where his mother and sister were living. I don’t know how many years he took care of them, but it had to be close to 10. Keep in mind I was a child. If you knew Pappaw, you knew he was a man of few words. I never heard him complain. I never heard him say a negative word about serving his mother or sister that way. Every day…a home-cooked meal.

I saw my daddy take care of my mom the year she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and the year to follow -- taking her to doctor appointments, picking up prescriptions, making notes to discuss with the doctor, watching her sleep, doing what needed to be done.

Now I see my mom taking care of my Mammaw -- emergency room runs, visits to doctors, addressing issues with her health care and living arrangements, washing her laundry, following-up on problems and working through challenges.

Are you a caregiver? The caregiver to which I am referring is someone who takes care of someone who is ill, aging…in general, someone who takes care of another person without remuneration or compensation. Neither of these are jobs people are jumping up and down waving their arms screaming, “Ooohhh, pick me! Pick me! I want that job.” But my role models in these positions have served their loved ones humbly and honorably with their whole heart and body to the point of exhaustion without complaint. They fight for their loved one because she can’t do it for herself. They feed, clothe, spend time with them, listen to them, and take care of the day-to-day life issues that others never know. They are the security blanket for the one they serve. They are the ones that are called when there is a crisis or an issue regardless of the time of day or night.

So, who takes care of the caregiver because everyone runs out of steam at some time? Who steps in and supports the caregiver when they feel at the end of their rope? What does it look like to take care of the caregiver? How do you take care of the caregiver?

It’s not just one person’s responsibility to serve. It wasn’t just my daddy’s responsibility to serve my mom, but rather, the family’s responsibility and desire to serve and honor her. Sometimes he just needed a ride-about with Daisy (the dog). Sometimes it was a listening ear. I remember Lori and I watching and listening to him as much as we did mom just to make sure he was taking care of himself, and if there was something we could do, we stepped up. What we found is that when everyone steps up and steps in to support that main caregiver, he was encouraged and refueled. It’s a long road to maintain a steady steam if you don’t have people stepping in and stepping up. Now, we watch mom as she is the primary caregiver for Mammaw. We watch to make sure she is taking care of herself. We step in and we step up to do what we can to help with Mammaw, but we are limited. So the next best thing is to take care of the caregiver. Have you ever noticed that when you are in the middle of something you don’t really realize that you are neglecting your own welfare? And considering her bout with stage 3 cancer, she doesn’t have the same endurance that she had before.

One thing I’ve noticed is that it seems to be difficult for caregivers to admit when they need help or when they need support.

So, I’m looking for ideas for taking care of caregivers. We support them when they go camping out of town, and we do what we can for Mammaw. I know we are not the only ones who have had the opportunity to serve those we love through care-giving, and I would like to know what you have done to take care of the care-givers in your family. I don’t care how out-of-the-box it is. I’d love to hear it. Lori and I are definitely out-of-the-box kind of people…anyone who can bedazzle a paper gown for their mom to wear to her next oncology appointment definitely likes creativity.

The bottom line is the caregiver has to take care of himself or herself or they are no good to anyone else, but if there is just one primary person doing the care giving, it just seems like there is something that others can do, and I’d like some fresh ideas. Feel free to call me or e-mail me or respond to this blog. Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. Kris, wonderful entry. My dad is an expert care giver with about 17 years under his belt. He would be a good one to talk to about this.



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