In the last three years, we’ve spent quite a bit of time being a caregiver. Abigail was 3 the first time we did this. First, it was my father who had terminal cancer. And then, with my mother who had a serious illness keeping her down for 4 months and now she’s fallen, broken an ankle, had the docs piece her back together and we are looking at another 3-4 months of intensive caregiving. This time also includes a sister who had major surgery and needed care and was also diagnosed with a seizure disorder. A daughter who broke her arm. And me who was diagnosed with diabetes. Oh, and we have a young family. I have a full time demanding career. My husband is a full time college student.
Needless to say, sanity is in short supply these days. I’ve had a lot of people ask the question in the last few days of, “What can I do?” My response is always, “oh, I’ve got it. Don’t worry about us.” I have a superwoman complex. Truly. I think I can handle the world. I thought about it this morning and more than likely those around me will be seeing more of their peers doing the kinds of caregiving that I am doing. So, when they are asking how to help it is not just for me, but I’m sure it has them thinking of others they may encounter in this situation. So, this is a list of things that are of most help to me and are a good starting point for those you may know who are both full time caregivers and have a young family.
- If you are local, call on Sunday night and say in a forceful way, “I’m bringing you dinner on _______. What are things that people cannot eat and what do you like to eat?” Don’t ask, “Can I.” Just say you are going to do it. If you are out of town, send a gift card for a restaurant. Believe me, we will forever be grateful for McDonald’s at this point. No lie. We will eat that up like it is gourmet. Why? Because we’ve already been up since 5-6 am and by the time dinner rolls around we are beyond exhausted and a hot McDonald’s cheeseburger that we do not have to fix or do dishes after would taste great.
- Call us up and say, “We are coming for your child”—just not in a creepy voice. Haha! Full time caregiving is very rough on children. The household routine is disrupted. They, unfortunately, do not get much of our time and they are worried about their family member who is sick. It is hard on littles. They need fun and we simply cannot give it right now.
- Send random texts and cards just to let us know you are thinking of us. Those moments of encouragement go a long way. You have absolutely no idea what it feels like to get a funny meme in the moment after having to empty bedside commodes, etc. Caregiving is not glamorous, so keep us laughing and encouraged.
- Call us and say, “We are coming over and you are leaving.” Caregiving is hard on a marriage. VERY hard. Many might not think of it, but when the patient literally cannot move it means someone has to be home every hour of the day. So, we cannot go out together. Being able to have a short meal and a trip to Target together means the world to a couple in the thick of this process.
- In the priority of things in life, the house is the last thing that gets attention. But, for someone like me, who has a hard time with clutter and mess, not being able to properly attend to it just weighs even more on the stress. Show up with a bucket. If you are out of town and have the resources, call Merry Maids or someone similar and pay for a one time cleaning. You have no idea the tears that would flow to have that taken care of.
- Send wine and unhealthy snacks.
- If they do not live somewhere with online grocery shopping, let them know you will do their shopping and that you will stop by for their list at ____ time. Do not give them a choice.
- If they have dogs, stop by and take the dog for a 10 minute walk. The stress is also rough on our pets. They are protective and can sense illness. Poor Jake has been beside himself all week, but we haven’t had time to take him for a walk. Thankfully, the mice have their own wheel.
- If you are headed out to run errands at Target or will be just doing general things around town, call and ask for their list. Believe me, we always have one.
- I’m going to repeat this one again—just be there. Just send love, prayers, positive energy and healing thoughts for the entire household. Of anything I’ve done in my life, caregiving has been the hardest physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Knowing that we have friends and family who love us and are thinking of us is so important.
So, if you know someone in this situation—reach out and even something you think is so simple—it might make the world of difference in their challenging day. Now, I’ve got the lunch duty to get to!