Full time or part time, caregiving demands time and energy, and it makes us faces challenges we’ve never had to face before. As parents we become caregivers as soon as we have children. If we have a child with special needs, the demands on our time and energy are extended, perhaps for a lifetime.
Many of us face the challenge of becoming caregivers for our aging parents. My husband and I have shared this responsibility with our siblings in recent years. Even though we want to help our parents, and we know it’s the right thing to do, it’s not always easy.
In my upcoming novel Meadowsong, release date November 20, 2018, Kate Greenway becomes a caregiver for her mother.
My friend Shirley Leonard wrote With Each Passing Moment: Help and Hope for Caregivers. In it, Shirley records her journey as a caregiver for her own parents. She shares some thoughts below which may be helpful to you as a caregiver, or if you know someone who is.
- What do you think is the hardest thing about being a caregiver?
For me, the toughest parts were twofold: my parents decline and my inability to be in two places at once. The juggling act of caring for multiple generations is such a common one, but each family situation is unique and brings its own challenges.
Here’s a sample from my book, With Each Passing Moment: Help and Hope for Caregivers, that explains a bit of what that felt like and how I learned to handle it:
“The struggle to maintain your parents’ dignity and their safety can become a formidable task that can scare the daylights out of even the strongest among us. I cannot claim to be the greatest expert on this, but I can honestly tell you that I know where you can go to find wisdom.
It’s not with Dorothy and her trio of characters on a yellow brick road. It’s not in a bottle, a pill, an affair, nor from a psychic. My answer may seem simplistic, but it’s the only one that I’ve found that works.
It’s Jesus. No kidding. Just typing his name makes me recall the almost tangible feeling of new grit replacing the spaghetti in my spine, and the clearer thinking replacing the straw in my brain.
There were days I went to Christ, terrified that I was letting everyone in my life down, including him. He never failed to lift me up, even when some of the ways he did it felt harsh or when he seemed to take way too long.
It takes wisdom to juggle the needs of children, spouses, jobs, and parents all at the same time. I was often frightened that if I stayed in New York too long, the girls would suffer, and, of course, at times they did. So did Dick; so did I. But we all survived and today they’re grown and face their own juggling acts with grace. Generally, they each do it with a better grip on sanity than I felt at the time.”
(pgs. 136, 137)
- What are three ways friends, relatives, acquaintances can help a caregiver, i.e. phone calls, providing meals, giving the caregiver a break, etc.?
Sometimes, what a caregiver needs most is the freedom to come apart at the seams for a bit. That might mean bringing a meal or coming to visit or taking a shift or making a telephone call. It might mean listening without giving advice and letting them vent. Those caring for others need to feel strong and in control on a regular basis, so the ability to lose it periodically is priceless.
Here’s one of my “Shirl’s Sanity Savers” from the book that addresses this issue:
“Face the reality that your ultimate help comes from heaven, but realize that you also need help in the hear and now. Call, email, or text someone and ask for one specific thing you need. Do not feel guilty about asking. The ability to help you may just be a blessing to someone else.”
- How can I get a copy of your book?
It’s available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a signed copy at a discounted
- What surprised you most about caregiving?
I didn’t expect the journey to hold so many times of joy. There was the day I heard Dad singing “Moon River” along with the radio after days of his depression. There were moments in the car, traveling from PA to NY and back, of deep worship. There were times when someone sent a card at just the right moment to lift me up.
Here’s a prayer at the end of one chapter that captures those times:
“Forgive me for the times I rush through life, Lord. Thank you for tucking surprises into the nooks and crannies of my days. Help me slow down enough to catch the glimpse of your presence tucked into today, and let me soak up your peace.”
author: With Each Passing Moment: Help and Hope for Caregivers