Thank you for your interest in caregiving. This site will no longer be active, but the posts will remain accessible. The link to my new blog on spiritual living, “I Need a Minute” is https://2delanco.wordpress.com/
Most cell phones provide a warning when the battery is getting low. Some even have the option of going into a power-saving mode. Once the phone is connected to a charger, it indicates the current percentage of power left in the battery. Some chargers show how long it will take until the battery is completely recharged. Wouldn’t it be nice if our bodies did that?
But don’t they? When we are caring for others, we may ignore the warnings and go into a power-saving mode so that we can keep working even when we find ourselves tired or stressed. We work a little less, limit communication, or just plain hide from others. But at some point, we have to completely recharge. I just spoke to someone today who told me how tired he was, and with a yawn said maybe he’d go play golf. I suggested going home and resting completely so that he would be ready for the next day’s challenges.
Sometimes, we just have to stop and recharge. Research always tells us how important it is to rest, rehydrate and recharge. We know that an uncharged phone won’t do us any good if we want to call or text. But do we remember that an uncharged body, mind, soul, or spirit will do us little good either if we want to be fully present to help others? Take a moment to consider how to recharge, and decide on the amount of time you need to be at your best again – before that low battery light comes on.
I started this blog a year ago to encourage caregivers, based on my own experience as a caregiver. Thanks to input from many of you who have followed me during this time, I have been inspired to continue on this journey. However, I sense that it is time now to change courses.
My true interest is to share with others the spiritual support I receive from God’s Word. My future blogs will not be limited only to issues that caregivers face. The plan is to write about life’s many issues in light of how God says we should be living.
It is my sincere hope that you will follow this blog as well. I will be posting the new link for it next week in this space. Thanks for your current participation. I trust that you will have joy for the journey – wherever you are in life right now.
The following excerpt was written many years ago. It is one of the lessons I learned while caring for my mother during her journey with Alzheimer’s:
This is more about her than it is about me. I try to imagine what it would be like to not be able to remember the things I need to know or to lose the ability to process information quickly. Mom is losing a valuable part of herself. So, my care for her has to encourage her and see how she is feeling in all of this. I have to allow her to vent when she needs to and not become bossy with her. I have to support Mom in a way that keeps her dignity intact.
At the time this was written, I was not fully aware of how many cognitive abilities my mother would lose. I didn’t know then that her ability to communicate would be reduced to incoherent speech. But it was still important that I would try to help her maintain her dignity. As I interact now with other loved ones or acquaintances with various illnesses, I hope that the lessons I have learned as a caregiver will carry over to help me be a blessing to them.
The fall season always seems like a time of reflection for me. It feels like a time to slow down from the busyness of summer and prepare for the onslaught of colder weather. I enjoy the beauty of the changing leaves because they also seem to punctuate life changes and reassure me that tough times don’t always last.
Solomon’s well-known observation, “To every thing there is a season,” is centered in his diatribe on how meaningless life is. Solomon’s bleakness is in contrast to his other writings which were more positive. His mood at the time is evidence of the truth of his statement. Some days are just better (or worse) than others. And sometimes the rough days seem to be strung together endlessly. It is during those times that we may be tempted to agree with Solomon.
However, after he had vented, Solomon found a way out of his bleakness. He accepted the reality that time and seasons change and ended the book speaking of the one thing that is constant in life- God Himself. Whatever season you are in right now as a caregiver, find the beauty in it, knowing that change does come, but you can always rely on God no matter what.
It dawned on me after the first entry on this topic that we cannot smile outwardly when there is no joy inside us. Smiles cannot be forced, though many try to do so. Genuine smiles, however, just bubble up with little or no effort.
As my son and I were posing for pictures a few weeks ago, he made a goofy sound in my ear which he knew I would react to. My daughter-in-law snapped the picture with both of us genuinely laughing before we did the “posed” smile. It has become one of my favorite pictures of us together. I remember a friend telling me once that he’d asked a young lady why she wasn’t smiling and she told him she was smiling inside. He responded that she should telegraph the message to her face. Well, love in the heart is easily telegraphed to the face.
People who know me well can always get me laughing when we recall events in our history that are comical or worth remembering. The long journey we walk as caregivers sometimes squashes the pleasant memories we have with our loved ones, thus making it more difficult to smile. Yet, when we think back, we can find something worth smiling about. It doesn’t change the situation, but it changes us. And isn’t that what smiling is all about? It is choosing to reside for a moment in what is pleasant and what is good. Smile.
The decision to wear or not wear a mask during this pandemic has become a painful point of controversy. The main challenge for me, however, is feeling that others may not know that I am smiling at them.
This always reminds me of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s 1896 poem, “We Wear the Mask.” It was later adapted by Maya Angelou into a spoken-word poem extending Dunbar’s expression of the pain hidden by people of color in order to survive. The face masks we wear now, though unrelated to racism, still present the challenge of seeing the full face of another person behind a covering that leaves only the eyes exposed.
However, a related lesson learned from one of my students has remained close to my heart for decades. It was near the end of the school year when my relationship with the students was established to the point that we could joke with one another periodically. He wanted my attention, but I was trying to convince him that I didn’t like him, so he should leave me alone. He said, “Oh, Ms. Perry, we know you love us. We can see it in your eyes!”
And it is behind the masks that hide the pain we feel from time to time as caregivers, that our eyes will also let our loved ones know how we truly feel about them. Hopefully, they will see our smiling eyes.
We encounter them everywhere, and maybe we just don’t notice them. We may have even said they are just doing their jobs. Service workers received a lot more attention than they usually do at the height of the pandemic; but there are service workers everywhere, not just in the medical field. Yet, we sometimes may fail to notice others who are really helping us.
The unidentified caregivers I especially make a habit to notice are the cashiers. Lord knows they have to deal with an interesting assortment of consumers in the checkout line with a spectrum of behaviors and attitudes. The expectation on the part of the consumer is that the cashier will be courteous and patient. (Not to mention, quick.) And that’s usually what we encounter; but truthfully, sometimes it doesn’t happen that way.
What I have found though, is that if I take the time to notice a cashier’s nametag, I can call them by name when I say hello and ask how their day is going. I also use their name again when I say thanks as I leave. This usually changes the attitude of even those who are not in the best of moods or who just had a doozy of a customer before me. I’ve even asked those with hidden or missing nametags what their name is to make sure I use their names and smile before I leave. The cashiers are truly caring for us. If you don’t believe so, see how long it takes you to find some of the barcodes on your purchases the next time you use the self-service checkouts. In the meantime, make an effort to recognize any other unidentified caregivers who cross your path, and remember to be gracious to them.
The storm came up suddenly as I sped down the highway, and soon the sky let loose sheets of torrential rain. There was no way to pull over, so I slowed down and put on the hazard lights like most other drivers. I found myself behind semi-trucks that added to the limited visibility because of the large amounts of water coming off their tires. I had no choice but to pass them. But just as I got alongside one of the trucks, the rain increased; and I was in a total white-out.
Does life ever seem like that to you? My mother would sometimes say, “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another.” But life happens, and it doesn’t pick just one person to dump on. When you are in one of life’s storms, it may seem as if the problems will never end. You may even doubt your ability to make it through.
But during my rainstorm experience, my husband spoke quietly from the passenger seat, “You’re doing fine. Keep your eye on the yellow line.” I listened to his repeated words of encouragement and kept inching forward. At some point, the storm passed, and I breathed a sigh of relief. When you find yourself in a tough place, look around for your cheerleader. They may be closer to you than you think, and they are saying quietly, “You’re doing fine; keep going.”
It doesn’t seem as though we have to be told to do good. But we do have to be told to not get tired of doing good. What starts out as a good idea needs our perseverance to become productive. We learn that from our intended exercise programs or promises to stay in touch.
I learned it again this year from the demise of what should have been a very productive garden. Somewhere along the line, I forgot to water it consistently or to chop away the weeds. Then when I saw holes in the leaves of the green vegetables, I gave up. Now, in what should be harvest season, there are only a few tomatoes or eggplants and maybe one squash to put on the table. Row after row of potential vegetables never made it through the summer’s heat and the lack of rain.
Had I shown more perseverance, the story could have been different. I see other gardens in the area that are full and flourishing. Someone took the time to consistently drag out the hose to water the plants and took time to chop away the weeds. So, if you are doing something well as a caregiver, stick with it. Don’t become discouraged. In time, you will reap a harvest for the good you have done.