From our family to yours:
It’s a cook-free (and dirty dish-less!) Progressive Party.
On December 18 and 19, Caregiving.com is throwing a Holiday Progressive Blog Party! My friends and I are going to be stopping by the blogs and websites of family caregivers, dropping off holiday well-wishes and good cheer. Our party also includes companies that provides services and/or products to help family caregivers. Won’t you join us?
CareGiving.com is giving away a gift a day. All you have to do is visit the blog party participants, share a comment and let the bloggers know you’re visiting because of Caregiving.com’s Holiday Progressive Blog Party. You can find the participants in the blog party here: https://www.caregiving.com/2017/12/holiday-progressive-blog-party-participants-3/
Be sure to check back at TakingCareofGrandma.com this week. I’m a featured participant at the party, and in honor of the party, I am donating a customized daily organizing sheet to one lucky winner. To help start the New Year off right, a visitor will win a daily organizing sheet, customized to their caree’s needs. This sheet can help carees keep track of their day and help caregivers facilitate conversations about health and wellness, social and leisure activities, and day-to-day affairs. See my grandma’s daily sheet at http://rachelh15.sg-host.com/manic-monday-grandmas-daily-organizer/
Over the past few years with my grandma, a few things have become essential to my survival as her primary caregiver. In my last post, I listed the tangible items, things that I can physically hold or access through technology that have made my life easier.
In this post, I will focus on the intangible items that you can’t just go out and buy at the store. These include good relationships and knowledge to make good decisions, which are things you have to invest time in searching for and building.
10) Safe person
A safe person is a person that will listen to your rants and problems non-judgmentally. You won’t have to worry about this person hotlining you did or making you feel bad for something you said. You never have to apologize or make excuses for something you did when you talk to this person. Your safe person validates your experience and feelings and never offers unsolicited personal experiences or advice.
9) Love substitute
A love substitute is a way of giving the affection and care that your caree needs when you have run out of love to give. As a general rule, I am not a super touchy feely person, so my love substitute comes in the form of Karen, Grandma’s daytime helper. She is always sweet and kind to Grandma. I know when my grandma is with her, that she is getting all the feels she needs. [The idea of a Love Substitute comes from The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey – caregiving.com]
One of the best things you can do for yourself if you’re a younger caregiver like me is get you a Leo. Leo is one of my grandma’s closest friends and he is far closer to her in age than I am. Sometimes when I tell my grandma something (like we need to switch to online bill pay or to tear up mail from the Alliance for Retired Americans and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare because they’re lobbyist groups only reaching in her pockets), she doesn’t believe me because I’m so young. So she consults with Leo to get the facts. And, since Leo has been around the block enough with us many times, he always calls me first before he touches base with Grandma to see what the appropriate response should be ????
I don’t take offense to this, I just accept the fact that my grandma trusts Leo because he’s been there for her many times when she needed help, he is a man, and he is older. I just appreciate having him in our lives to advise us and back me up on important issues.
In order to help your caree have a good life, you have to have a vision of what that good life is. You also have to map out what that person doesn’t want in life so that you can be sure and take steps to avoid it. If you have just been thrust into a caregiving situation or it’s been a while since you spent time with your family member (both scenarios applied to me), you might need to both get on the same page about what that person’s good life looks like to them. When I became responsible for my grandma, I used the Charting the LifeCourse Life Trajectory Worksheet to help me list her vision for a good life and what she didn’t want.
You also have to have your own vision of your own good life, so that you can keep moving in that direction, even when it seems impossible under the everyday activities of caregiving and for when caregiving ends.
A good caregiver always has a plan. Not just a “Plan B” or an escape route (seriously though, always map out the quickest way out of the building in case of a colostomy nightmare or meltdown), although these are very important. I’m talking about a plan on how you are going to get to you and your caree’s good life.
I used the Charting the LifeCourse Life Trajectory Worksheet to help me plot the steps I needed to take to help my grandma get to the good life. I also created a trajectory for myself to remind me of the things I can be working on when I get free time to help me advance to my own good life.
5) Support System
Everyone needs a lineup of all stars and pitch-hitters. When you are a family caregiver, it is even more important for you to map out your supports, not only for your caree, but for yourself as well. To help me think through all of the resources and supports at my disposal, I used the Charting the LifeCourse Integrated Supports Star. I completed one for my grandma, and then I created a star for myself. By completing a star for my grandma, I was able to see who else there was to help me with her. By completing a star for myself, I have a list of help that I can reference any time I have a problem that I can’t manage on my own. Anytime we have a problem, we use the star to map out what supports we can access to help us solve it.
4) Knowledge of laws, rules, and policies related to health care, families and caregiving
At your job: Some employers offer caregiver support programs through employer sponsored insurance and have specific regulations around taking time off for caring for a family member. Get familiar with your employers general policies for taking time off as well.
In your state: Some (but not all) states have formal respite and family caregiver support programs. Do your research to find out what your family might be eligible for if and when you need help. All states have Area Agencies on Aging that are mandate to help older adults and their caregivers access the information and learn about local resources that can help them.
At the federal level: Educate yourself on FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). Learn about Medicare and/or Medicaid and what rights you have when they are your primary health coverage or funding any long term care. Medicare and Medicaid providers are required to follow certain rules. Learn about these rules so you can know when they’re not being followed and hold providers accountable. If you care for an older adult, make sure you’re aware of any policies that focus on aging Americans. If you care for a person with a disability, make sure you’re familiar with the Americans with Disabilities and Olmstead Act. Also learn about tax credits you or your caree may be eligible for to recoup costs of caregiving and long term care.
A few years ago, I used to take everything so seriously. I would bottle things up until I was literally sick or explode when something upset me to the point people were afraid of me.
My mom taught me about mindfulness, which is all about living in the moment. When you live in the moment, you are not stressing out the past (what you didn’t do, or what you did that wasn’t good enough) or freaking out about the future. I used to find myself so frozen with worry and guilt and grief that I couldn’t function. Now, I meet with my emotions face to face, accept them, learn from them, and move on.
Time is too precious to get angry, feel guilty, or stress out. Find the best strategies you can use when you feel like the world is turning upside down, whether it be meditation, naming things you are grateful for, playing your favorite song, or just pausing to look out your window for a while.
2) Routine (and flexibility for when you can’t follow your routine)
Having a routine will benefit both you and your caree. For a caregiver, it makes redundant, everyday activities much simpler and allows you to block your time so that you can get more done for you in your own life, and for your caree. For the caree, it provides comfort and stability when they can know what to expect. To learn more about our journey with establishing a routine, visit http://rachelh15.sg-host.com/manic-monday-building-a-routine-for-your-sanity/
1) ME Time
Your routine should include time for yourself, which is why ME Time is its own line item in the list of intangibles in the survival kit.
The best way to figure out how to take a break is to see where other people or scheduled activities can take the place of the time you are spending providing care. For me, one of my regularly scheduled Me Time appointments takes place on Friday nights, when my grandma is at her Life Group. Fortunately for us, her Life Group leader comes to pick her up and drops her off each Friday night. When I get off work on Fridays, I can just go home. I don’t have to rush home so I can get out to her house. This weekly break has been a life saver for the past year and a half.
Another opportunity I get to take a break is on the third Thursday of the month, when she goes to Keenagers, a dinner for older folks, at her church. As long as I find someone to take her, I can relax for an evening. It is a beautiful thing.
What relationships and skills are in your survival kit? Who makes your life easier as a caregiver? I’d love to hear how you’re getting by.
Today I was featured on VOICES: The Unseen Army of Caregivers, a blog by Michelle Seitzer. Michelle is a boss ladystoryteller and advocate.
I am very honored and excited and hope that our story will help other people like me who are family caregivers
Read the feature at http://michelleseitzer.com/voices/2017/9/8/voices-the-unseen-army-of-caregivers
My pink marker is running out.
If you want to cop one of these handy Yunga Tart Walker Trays for your grandma, you can get it on Amazon.com.
Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links from Amazon. If you use them, I might be rewarded credit or a commission of the sale. Please note that I only recommend tools that I personally use and love and I always have my readers’ best interest at heart.
Welcome to the first in my series of Bible Studies about the moral imperative for caregiving. When I was feeling disheartened about the church and the lack of support I felt they were providing our family, and myself, as a caregiver, I turned to the Bible to give me hope and encouragement to know that I was doing the right thing. Turns out, that God has a lot to say about the responsibility of taking care of your loved ones.
The first scripture I’d like to share with you is out of the book of Galatians. Galatians, of the New Testament, was written by Paul, a disciple of Jesus Christ. You might be familiar with Paul’s story, which unfolds in Acts. Paul started out as Saul. He was born to a Jewish family and grew to hate the followers of Jesus Christ with a fervent passion out of what he felt was his obedience to God. Until he met Jesus, he did everything he could to put away and even eradicate Christians. When he met Jesus on the way to Damascus, Jesus called him out for being a hater and Saul went blind from the light of the Lord. God sent a man named Ananias, who healed Saul in the name of the Lord. Saul then became Paul, and Paul became one of Jesus’ most devoted evangelists.
I can relate to Paul more than I realized. I always say that caregiving has changed me. Before I started taking care of my grandma, I was headed on a path to nowhere. I wasn’t worried about Grandma. But more than anything, I can’t say I was really worried about anything that mattered.
When Paul regained his sight, he woke up. He became a faithful follower of Christ, carrying out missions to share the truth with the world and committed his life sharing His word with the church.
In the same way, becoming responsible for another person really opened my eyes to the realities of life. My priorities were way out of whack. My spending was out of control, my personal choices weren’t necessarily positive, and I had a lot of free time on my hands that ultimately ended up getting me in trouble.
Now, I am trying to keep on the straight and narrow path and handle my business so I can focus on what’s important. More importantly, I have been baptized in compassion and empathy.
Our culture tells us these days that when a person gets older, they lose their value. We have deceived ourselves into believing that when we ship them off to nursing homes, where we can’t see or hear about their suffering, it will be best for them. (See also: Rachel Clears the Air on Nursing Homes)
I never questioned whether I should step in and help my grandma. Even when it seemed impossible, I had faith that everything would work out in our favor. But there were still those who saw the burden to great to bear and encouraged me to wash my hands clean of it and find her a place to live where she could have round-the-clock support.
In this part of Galatians, Paul is sharing one of Jesus’ basic commandments: to care for others unabashedly and diligently.
New International Version (NIV)
Doing Good to All
1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6: 2 says: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” If you are truly a follower of Jesus, you are compelled to care for others.
The Bible explicitly states here that we are mandated by God to care for others. It is not okay to wash your hands clean of your family when they need you. We have a moral responsibility to take care of others, the least of which our family members.
Galatians 6:3-5: “3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.”
I think Paul means that you can’t be so proud and stuck on yourself that you fail to do what you have been compelled by love to do. At the same time, you have to focus solely on your own path. Everyone has to do what is best for them in their own situations. At the end of the day, you are responsible for your life and your actions. You can’t let others dictate what you should do, and you can’t compare your situation to those of others. When you do what you are supposed to do, then you are allowed to feel proud of your accomplishments.
Galatians 6:6 says, “Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.”
Matthew Henry, a nonconformist theologian from the 17th century had this to say about this verse: “Many excuse themselves from the work of religion, though they may make a show, and profess it. They may impose upon others, yet they deceive themselves if they think to impose upon God, who knows their hearts as well as actions; and as he cannot be deceived, so he will not be mocked.”
Along your path, you will meet many people who profess their faith and claim to be a follower of Jesus. As we all know, words speak much louder than action. If I had listened to the people who speak loudly about the following God, but their behaviors and communication with me showed me something different, my grandma and I could be in a completely different trajectory by now.
7b: A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
I am a firm believer that you get what is coming to you. If you wipe your hands clean and turn your back on an elderly loved one in their time of need, what will happen to you when you are old? When you do good, good comes back to you.
Matthew Henry had this to say about reaping what you sew:
“Our present time is seed time; in the other world we shall reap as we sow now. As there are two sorts of sowing, one to the flesh, and the other to the Spirit, so will the reckoning be hereafter. Those who live a carnal, sensual life, must expect no other fruit from such a course than misery and ruin. But those who, under the guidance and influences of the Holy Spirit, live a life of faith in Christ, and abound in Christian graces, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. We are all very apt to tire in duty, particularly in doing good. This we should carefully watch and guard against. Only to perseverance in well-doing is the reward promised. Here is an exhortation to all to do good in their places. We should take care to do good in our life-time, and make this the business of our lives. Especially when fresh occasions offer, and as far as our power reaches.”
These words were written more than 300 years ago, but they still ring true today. Even though the road sometimes gets weary, we have to remember in our hearts that we are doing what is right by God and our loved ones, and let that fuel us when we start running out of steam.
I used this article to help me tell you about Paul: https://www.gotquestions.org/life-Paul.html
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhc/galatians/6.htm
If faith is important to you, it is only natural in times of trouble to want to lean on the church. Let me tell one thing I’ve learned supporting my grandma to participate in her faith community: There is a right way and a wrong way to lean on the church.
Here are some practical tips for dealing with church people that I have learned on my journey with Grandma.
|Put all of your faith in God.
The only One who can truly make a way and provide for all of your needs is God.
|Put all of your faith in the church.
My grandma used to call the church office frequently. Partly because she was lonely and believed that she could get comfort from the church. She was crying out for help, Talk to me! Come visit me! I’m shut in!
Partly because she really did she need help. When she first got home and started falling (before the Medical Alert), she would call the church to send someone to pick her up.
My grandma knows that my job is very important to me. She convinced herself that she shouldn’t call me or bother me while I was at work (when I asked she not call me excessively and start writing things down. Quite frankly I don’t think she realized just exactly how much she was calling me).
Grandma put all of her faith in them and they have failed us. Nobody comes to check on her. Nobody calls her.
It is better to not set yourself up for disappointment by convincing yourself that 1) it is the church’s responsibility to take care of you and 2) the church can solve all of your problems.
|Lean on individual members.
For me, this meant I had to get to know the people my grandma cared about from church and those who cared about her. I had to have conversations with her and, despite my discomfort, talk to people I didn’t really know.
The diamonds in the rough will reveal themselves to you as time goes on and you will learn just who exactly you can lean on. They are the people that go out of their way to say hello when they see you at church, who visit your loved one when they are in the hospital or rehab, and call and check on them.
|Lean on the church leadership
Church leaders are busy. They do not have the time and attention to get wrapped up in the drama of your daily lives.
Besides the disappointment you will feel when you put all of your faith in the church, there are more practical reasons for not leaning on the church itself.
|Resolve your disagreements with the people at church who piss you off (either internally or directly with them) so you can enjoy worship with your loved one.
If someone at church says or does something that really makes you mad, and you let that comment or action continue to bother you, you are not only disregarding our commandment to forgive others, but you are also ruining the experience for yourself.
I cannot tell you how many months I sat glaring at the back of a certain person’s head and thinking angry thoughts about this person. This kind of stanky attitude will block you from hearing what God has to say to you. It also allows bitterness and anger to fester in your soul, and it ruins the whole experience of going to church. You could become so distracted that you fall away from the whole point of church – to praise and thank God and renew your spirit.
It’s better just to chalk it up to ignorance and move on.
|Get mad at the whole church because one or two people are completely ignorant.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that many churches provide invaluable community services, like low income ministries, affordable child care, food pantries and soup kitchens, shelters, counseling, after schools activities…. Church staff don’t necessarily always follow the best practices of the nonprofit field.
When the pastor for the seniors at the church was bold enough to put in writing (twice!), claiming to speak on behalf of the whole church, that he felt she should be moved into a nursing home after I asked for help connecting me to people who could , I was very upset. How could someone with such a great responsibility, to minister to those who should be our most valued citizens, be insensitive? I wondered if he got a commission from the local senior living facilities. I stewed for months and months. How was he going to feel years down the road when his kids wanted to do the same to him?
A man much older and wiser than me should have realized that I was only reaching out to them because I saw them as the gatekeepers to the members of their church. At the time, I didn’t know anyone at the church, least of which who my grandma interacted with and who cared for her(and she doesn’t remember most of them after everything that has happened).
More importantly, I didn’t know how to ask for help from the church. It is okay to ask for prayer requests, but think twice before reaching out for too much more than that from the people who work in the church office.
Just because a person is part of the church leadership and claim to serve the Omniscient One, doesn’t mean they are all knowing. For one, they are too busy dealing with the affairs of the church as well as everyone else in the congregation to get close enough to you to truly get a good picture of what is going on.
Don’t expect them to always know what is the right thing to do. People can only respond to situations based on their personal frame of reference and they are making decisions and statements blindly. If they do not have experience or invested time in learning the best practices of supporting aging individuals and their families, they are not capable of advising you on any aspect of your caregiving situation.
Despite the fact that my grandma was constantly disrupting the church office with her phone calls, they never once thought to notify me, her primary caregiver, that she was calling them to help her when she fell so that I might know what was going on. I was completely in the dark. It wasn’t until the light at the end of the tunnel, after all of her medical issues, that someone bothered to tell me she had been calling them. I guess they just assumed that I knew, even though she explicitly asked many of them not to tell me.
You can’t get mad at the church for these kinds of situations. You have to forgive them and move on with your life, otherwise you will dread going to church and potentially deprive your loved one from a meaningful experience. And let’s face it: when you get older and are dealing with chronic health issues and the end of the road, there aren’t too many of those to look forward to.
Instead, it’s your duty to either educate them on what is right or demonstrate Godly behavior. I do not think that Jesus would leave my grandma on the floor when she falls. I also don’t think he would abandon her to a convalescent home. So I have taken it upon myself to communicate the essential facts to key people who need to know them and model for them what I believe God would have me do.
|Cleanse your soul at church.
The primary purpose of going to church is to worship the Father.
I cannot tell you how much better I feel after church service on Sundays, and how out of whack I feel when I don’t go.
If nothing else, just clear your mind and enjoy the music and the message and savor the fact that you have an hour or two where you literally have nothing to do but be still.
Take the time you spend at church to reflect inward and give all of your burdens to Him.
|Air your dirty laundry at church.
My grandma was always a very private person. We had a lot of dirty laundry, believe me, but she never talked about it publicly. SInce she has been losing her memory, as well as many close personal relationships, I think this practice and the judgement to carry it out is waning. That’s okay – I inherited. I hate having other people in my business. It is better to keep your personal family business within your family.
However, when I first started dealing with her church and was desperate for help, I was constantly sharing our struggles with the people I knew there. At first, I thought I wanted the people at Grandma’s church to have a very detailed picture of my reality. Maybe if they really knew what all I had to deal with, they might be more motivated to help us. Maybe if more of them knew, they’d send help! I learned very quickly that I had the wrong impression.
I have learned that they actually seem to respect me more now that they don’t know just exactly what is going on. And since I’ve realized just exactly who I can lean on, I know just where to send my supplications!
Have you had a revelation about dealing with church people not listed here? Or have you had similar experiences? Please share your trials and tribulations in the comments! I’d love to hear your story.
May 23, 2015 is a date I refer to as the date that will live in infamy for our tiny two-lady family. We spent the day visiting the cemeteries where our loved ones are buried as we have done every year on Memorial day for as long as I can remember. It was only the second time I had ever driven Grandma around to the cemeteries. The photo on the left is our very first selfie, forever commemorating this day.
Over the past two years, I have been learning to balance the role of a family caregiver. As the sole living relative to my grandmother, who was an only child (like myself), the responsibility of her care falls completely on me.While it is true that there are many demands and stresses caused by caregiving, I find that the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
Most of these are from my own personal experience, but there is research that shows that being a family caregiver, especially a grandchild who is providing care, can be beneficial.
Top 10 Reasons Caregiving is Good for You
1. Caregiving helps you save money.
I realize that this is not the case for everyone, but as a single young adult, becoming responsible for my aging loved one has helped me straighten out my finances big time. Here’s why:
- I’ve been too busy providing care to go out and throw away money or sit around worrying about the things I don’t have.
- Taking care of someone who needs care shows you the true value of things.
- When you spend time hanging out with the older generation, you will find that you start adopting their thrifty habits. My grandma was born immediately after the Great Depression. Her parents grew their own food. Hell, my grandma even made her own clothes up until the 1990s. You really learn what you can live without, the difference between what you need and what you want.
2. Caregiving keeps you out of trouble.
I’m not gonna lie, before my grandma had a major health event that resulted in her needing extra help at home, I was pretty wild. Taking care of my grandma has helped me calm down a lot.
There is nothing for your sobriety like knowing Medical Alert might call you at 11:30 at night or 3:30 in the morning.
I don’t have time for dating so all that drama got cut from my life QUICK.
I’m even going to church on Sundays (granted, I’m taking her…. But you get the picture)!
3. Caregiving teaches you new skills.
Since I’ve been helping my grandma, I have learned more about time management, care coordination, navigating health care, ostomy care, cooking and meal planning, nutrition, advocacy, and the list goes on and on. The things I have learned while caring for my grandma will help me in my own life, and I can use my experiences to help others.
4. Caregiving improves cognitive and physical abilities.
New York Times Article outlining the hidden benefits of caregiving, a study of 900 female caregivers showed that, “caregivers did significantly better on memory tests than did non-caregivers followed over two years” (Span 2011).
When you are providing care for an aging loved one, you have to keep on top of medications, appointments, nutrition needs, medical supplies, home maintenance, finances, care schedules, and social activities. After caring for someone for a while, you will find yourself recalling information more easily.
In that same article, a study reported that caregivers “maintained stronger physical performance than non-caregivers. On tests like walking pace, grip strength and the speed with which they could rise from a chair, the high-intensity group declined less than lower-intensity caregivers or non-caregivers over two years” (Span 2011).
There is nothing like providing support to a person who is a fall risk for strengthening your reflexes. When you are constantly thinking about preventing falls, your mind operates on a new plane where any wrong move could result in a broken hip or a back injury, which causes you to develop lightning fast reflexes, a Strong Man grip, and superhuman speed.
5. Caregiving is a symbiotic relationship.
Caregiving is not a one-way street. The person who is in need of care is not the one who always is the beneficiary of caregiving. People who require care also have a lot to give. In a study of 17 grandchildren who were family caregivers, the people surveyed reported “a sense of self, spending time together, learning about life, and emotional and financial compensation” as the benefits they enjoyed through their caregiving role (Fruhauf 902).
We all spend a lot of time with our grandparents and come to appreciate them for all they do for us as we are growing up. But spending time with my grandma as an adult has been a completely different experience. It is like getting to know each other all over again. There is a lot that you don’t see or can’t understand as a child.
While I have always known that my grandma loves and cares for me, since our roles have reversed my grandma is appreciative and thankful for my help, which brings a new element to our relationship and makes me feel good. So there is an emotional gain for me in caregiving that I would not otherwise be experiencing.
6. Caregiving teaches you patience.
When you are taking care of someone who is older than you and moves slower than you, both mentally and physically, you quickly learn how to adjust your pace. If you are responsible for someone who has memory problems, you get used to repeating things often and not getting frustrated when they don’t remember.
7. Caregiving enhances your relationships with people.
Seeing how valuable spending time with one another can be will make you want to spend more time with and do things for other people you love and care about. Since I have been taking care of my grandma, I have been calling and checking on my family members more often and stopping and taking a few minutes to send them a handwritten note.
8. Caregiving teaches you compassion.
When you assume a caregiving role, you will find yourself interacting differently with people. You will be less irritated by that lady taking forever in the drive-up banking or the couple walking slow out of the grocery store. You might start smiling more and making small talk with people in the checkout line. You might even finding yourself wanting to give more of your time and wanting to help more people.
9. Caregiving forces you to focus on what’s most important.
Before I began taking care of my grandma, my priorities were way out of whack. My spending was out of control, my personal choices weren’t necessarily positive, and I had a lot of free time on my hands that ultimately ended up getting me in trouble. Now, I have to make sure I handle my business so I can fulfill my caregiving responsibilities. It really has eliminated a lot of the extra drama and stress out of my life and help me appreciate the people around me and the experiences we sometimes take for granted.
10. Caregiving can make you feel good knowing you’re doing the right thing.
There is a moral imperative to caregiving. Who would I be put my life before someone who has sacrificed her needs, health, and heart to make sure that I was healthy and loved and had everything I needed? Even if all your grandparents did was make your own human life possible, that should be enough!
Besides the fact that you wouldn’t exist without your grandparents, there is the basic human right of living in their own homes and communities. Even the federal government acknowledges that helping older Americans age in place and stay at home is best practice and the best long-term care solution for our country. But people out there will try and tell you that your loved one would be better off somewhere “where they can be taken care of.”
Don’t ever let anyone tell you your loved one can be cared for better anywhere other than their home. There are always ways of keeping them safe at home, no matter your budget or whatever level of support they have currently.
Putting your loved one in a home won’t keep them safe. It won’t keep them from falling. People fall in nursing homes all the time. Nursing homes don’t provide the nurturing, caring environments they show in senior living magazines. Would you rather have a bracelet on your body at home where you are comfortable, or pray you’re close enough to the call light when you’re cooped up in your little room, where you spend 75% of your day?
If I had dumped my grandma in a nursing home when the going got tough like the people at her church were telling me I should, my grandma could be gone by now. However, I can lay my head on my pillow and sleep at night knowing that I am doing the right thing, which has to be a better feeling than anything I would be doing right now if I had washed my hands clean of the responsibility of providing her care.
- Fruhauf, Christine A. and Jarrott, Shannon E., Allen, Katherine R. (2006). Grandchildren’s Perceptions of Caring for Grandparents. Journal of Family Issues, 27(7), 887-911.
- Span, Paula. (2011). Caregiving’s Hidden Benefits. New York Times. https://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/caregivings-hidden-benefits/?_r=1
Your experiences as a caregiver can help someone going through a similar situation. Caregiving can be tough, and there are times where you feel all alone, but if you look around, there are many people going through what you are going through. Whether you are in a waiting room at the hospital, walking by them as they visit their loved one in a skilled nursing facility, or posting on a message board, you can help others through your experiences. If you find yourself wanting to share the things you’ve learned with others, I encourage you to seek out your local Area Agency on Aging or senior center to connect with a caregiver support group or peer mentoring program.