Your body won’t lie. Your mind will!

By BENJAMIN PRATT,
Author of Guide for Caregivers and contributing columnist

A moment of stress by N Renaud via Wikimedia CommonsBoth of our daughters were ill at the same time recently, and they live 1000 miles apart. No, they are not twins. It was just coincidence. Nothing serious really—each complained of being worn out, tired, no energy, exhausted, congested, aching.

Our older daughter described it by saying, “I just needed to drop out for a few days and have an affair with my couch.”

Neither left her couch for three days.

Both are in their 40s, leading very different lives, yet they have a few things in common—endless work and constant stress from self-demanding standards. Confession time: They got it from their parents.

Our older daughter is a successful businesswoman who devotes untold hours to charity work. Among her many time commitments are serving as a regional board member for the American Red Cross—plus fund-raising and development for a local museum and the regional symphony and for a local child care center related to her church. She is also a key creative player in the annual book festival for her city.

Our younger daughter is a 4th Grade teacher in a Texas border city. She works 7 to 7 most school days and juggles the demands of her family, with children’s sports and school functions.

I talked briefly to both of them on their lie-down weekend. I, of course, had to drop in my fatherly advice: “Your body won’t lie. Your mind will! Your mind will tell you that you are able to do one more task. But at some point, your body will just shut down and demand a rest. I think that is what is going on at this moment. If you don’t listen to your body and treat it better it will get sick.”

They politely listened, but I strongly suspect they will not follow my sage advice much more than I did myself at their age.

When I teach caregivers I often take a bottle of water and hold it out at arm’s length and ask its weight.

The replies come back: “Six ounces?” “Twelve ounces?”

Then I ask, “If I hold it like this for an hour, how much does it weigh?”

Smiles begin to appear.

Finally I ask: “If I hold it for 24 hours? A week? A month? A year? Five years?”

I pause, as they are nodding with me, and I say: “Now you know the weight of stress!”

I have a good friend whose mother died recently. Nearly seven years ago she retired from a position she loved to become the caregiver of her mother whose physical and mental capacities were diminishing rapidly. Her mother was finally placed in a nursing home where my friend visited her daily. She continued to go each day, even when her mother only rarely recognized her or expressed any appreciation for the visits. As if this was not enough stress, her husband developed serious heart problems. My friend was a caregiver on two fronts.

Not long before her mother died, my friend began having problems talking. Her voice became raspy and could barely be heard above a whisper. She has had extensive tests which reveal no physical abnormalities in her throat or larynx.

Her doctor simply said, “Have all the muscles in your neck always been so tight?”

“No,” she replied, “Only in the recent years that I have been under a lot of stress as a caregiver.” She says that the voice lessons she is now taking are helping, but it will be a long recovery.

It is well for each of us caregivers to remember that our bodies won’t lie—our minds will.

Be tender toward yourself.

Listen to your body.

BENJAMIN PRATT’s recent columns include “Simple Gratitude for Simple Gifts” and “Did I Say Anything about Anger.”

Recovering in a bath Becky Wetherington via Wikimedia Commons

PHOTOS today are not Benjamin’s daughters. Both photos were contributed for public use via Wikimedia Commons. Top photo was taken by N. Renaud of Canada; bottom photo was taken by Becky Wetherington.

Comments: (0)
Categories: Uncategorized

Print, share with friends: Caregivers Tips for Fall and Winter

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

Thank you to all who contributed to our list as we prepare for the upcoming seasons. Feel free to print this set of tips; or, share this via Facebook, email it to friends, republish this in your congregation’s newsletter. We want to spread this collected wisdom. Many of these ideas will spark fresh excitement in your community.

Caregiver Tips
as Leaves, Snow and Year-End Holidays
Blow into Our Lives

Winter walk in the woodsGive the gift of time. Whether it is a social visit with the caregiver—or respite time, filling in for the caregiver, so they can get away a bit. Time is appreciated! If it’s possible, offer to take the one who requires care out for a while—so that the caregiver can have some time at home alone.

Plan a short fall color tour with an accessible bus for caregivers and the people for whom they care.

Test furnaces early. Start them and run them for a day to see if they’re in working order for the winter.

Organize volunteers in your community to check on wheelchair ramps at neighbors’ homes to ensure they’re in good repair for the months of leaves, ice and snow.

Survey caregivers in your area to see if leaf, ice and snow removal is arranged for fall and winter in the homes where they provide care. Consider organizing volunteers to help out where the caregiver is the one who’ll wind up having to rake leaves and push snow, if you don’t help.

Organize a volunteer crew to help caregivers winterize their vehicles. Got snow scrapers? Check windshield wiper blades? Want some teenagers to give the car a good vacuum inside? Busy caregivers often wind up with vehicles jammed with stuff that they never have time to clean up.

Tech Savvy? How about helping caregivers get setup with Skype or FaceTime or Google-Plus Hangout for the holiday season so that, if they can’t attend a gathering, they can still join in.

Plan a “thanks for the caregivers” Thanksgiving-theme meal in November complete with substitute caregivers to cover their responsibilities at home. This is a great way to get local caregivers in your area to meet and begin forming a support group of friends.

Plan now for just the right holiday gifts to give to the caregivers in your life. Buying local products is wonderful of course. Looking to sites such as NoMoreRack.com and EndOfRetail.com might help you stumble upon a bargain that can express appreciation without breaking the bank.

Organize respite care to give caregivers in your area a “day off” to shop for their own holiday gift giving.

Have a family caregiving arrangement? Consider putting together an album of photos so that the primary caregiver—and the person who they care for—can look through the images and reminisce.

If you are in a close-knit caregiving relationship in your family—and gatherings are planned over the holidays—offer to be the one who goes home early so the primary caregiver can enjoy the entire event. All too often, we simply assume that the usual caregiver will always be tethered to the schedule of the person who needs the care.

Plan a holiday-decorating party for caregivers and shut-ins, after checking on what is appropriate in each case. This can be a fun boost for the whole household and may help weary folks actually get a little decorating done, when they might never find the time.

Share fun holiday music with your community’s caregivers. The gift of music makes an uplifting addition to the environment in any home. Think of burning a mix-CD of music to give to caregivers.

Make a plan now so that caregivers can choose holiday services to attend and can have the time free. Christmas Eve services are extremely popular, yet caregivers rarely have a chance to find replacement caregivers. And, consider having a service in your community at which caregivers—and the men and women they care for—can attend. This may involve planning transportation and a sensitivity to the needs of everyone who gathers.

Thanks for these ideas go to many of our readers, including Suze and Jenny Brown of Chicago, Nance Edwards from San Diego, MaryAnne and Jake from New York, and Bob W from St. Petersburg, Florida.

Comments: (1)
Categories: Uncategorized