Love and caregiving: Can they coexist?

Jerri Locke, Director of Healthy Aging

By Jerri Locke
Director of Healthy Aging 
Methodist Health System

 

Ah, February, the month of Groundhog Day, Presidents Day, Mardi Gras, Asian New Year, Black History Month, and Valentine’s Day. February is a time of love and fun — two words you don’t usually associate with caregiving.

For many, caregiving is a job that just happened. You’re going about your daily life when an emergency occurs and changes everything. You are quickly thrust into the role of caregiver, with little to no preparation and even less time to plan. From there, the job is nonstop, and you realize that you’ve added caregiver to the many roles you play. To say it’s exhausting is an understatement, especially if there’s no end in sight.

Embrace the love

When you become a caregiver, you get plenty of advice, including the need to “take care of yourself.” But you find yourself wondering when you can add that strange notion to your day. Sometimes you end up thinking you’ll take care of yourself when things get better.

Well-meaning people tell you to “take care of yourself” because they really don’t know what else to say or how to help. This can be especially complicating when that person is a sibling, who is viewing the situation remotely with no means to help. They watch the decline of their parent’s health and see the toll that caregiving is taking on you but are at a loss of what to do.

It really comes back to you — embrace the love needed to be the best caregiver possible.

Simple ideas, powerful results

While there are millions of articles, books, and caregiver support groups ready to help, implementing some simple ideas might help the most.

  1. Set aside a time each day to just be there for the person you’re taking care of. Listen to them. Ask questions. Have an active conversation. Validating another person’s feelings and needs will accomplish more than trying to “fix” them. Maintain eye contact, don’t argue or get defensive, and use a loving tone.
  2. Help them find ways to stay active. Physical activity may be limited, but mental activity may be intact, or vice versa. Ask them what they’d like to do now or be able to do eventually. If that is to take care of themselves, help them break it down into smaller steps so they can see that they’ve achieved some success. Work with their doctor to set these goals.
  3. Have a calendar ready for the next time someone asks how they can help. Assign them a task. You’ll quickly know if they’re serious or not! Set up a time for them to visit in person or online. Accept the offer of a meal. Use resources like Bright Horizons or another eldercare provider to give both of you a break.
  4. Recognize that there is grief and loss for both of you. It’s not unusual for both you and your loved one to mourn the changes that have occurred, but if you remain in that stage, you’ll create a much different caregiving experience, losing love and validation. Together, make lists of things that are positive. Finally, when nothing more can be done, assure them that you’re with them to the end.

Be remotely resourceful

One valuable lesson the pandemic taught us is that most things can be handled remotely. Order your meals and groceries online. Set up telemedicine appointments instead of spending time in waiting rooms. Tune into church services on TV or online. Find their favorite music. Record their stories. Help them stay connected with friends and family via Zoom. Join an online support group.

Finding ways to validate your feelings and theirs will help strengthen the bond you share and make caregiving a loving experience for you both.

If you’re looking for an organization that views caregiving as a calling, take a look at Methodist Health System. Visit us at Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.

© Methodist Health System

EOE/M/F/D/V

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