While caring for my mother in her last months, I sometimes felt like nobody really understood what I was dealing with. My brother, who lived right next door, couldn’t see how rapidly she was declining because he saw her every day. I would go a few weeks between visits and when I returned the changes were startling. Even at the very end, close family friends and neighbors couldn’t believe that she was nearing the end, but by that time I was living with her and knew we didn’t have much time left. The intense grief I felt was paired with the hope that she wouldn’t suffer very long. There was also guilt because Christmas was approaching with its complexities of holiday traditions and family expectations, and I couldn’t be with my family because I was with my mother. The professional caregivers that were there to help me were truly a blessing, but there were many days when I felt isolated, abandoned and alone.
When you are a family caregiver, that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto to show up when the going got tough. We all need one or more people that we can turn to when we need assistance in providing consistent, quality care for aging family members or friends. If you have a large, close-knit family in the area, you are truly blessed! If not, how about neighbors or friends, or your church family? Try to involve them in caring for your loved one if they are willing and available. Don’t expect them to guess where you need their help but be specific in asking for support. Invite them to observe and learn about what you do so they can feel confident in helping out, and also so someone else will know the ropes if you should need to take an unplanned break due to illness or injury.
If you don’t have a trustworthy support network close by, explore options for community-based services or private-pay agencies that could fill in as necessary from time to time. That’s why my brother and I asked the local Home Instead office to help out with my mom. She had been a client for five years, so going from just a few hours a day to around the clock care was a dramatic increase, but the relationship was already established so expanding her care was a breeze, and took a tremendous load off my shoulders for providing help when her needs moved beyond my limited ability. Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without those wonderful caregivers!
Before you get to the end of your rope as a family caregiver, remember that God called you to this work, and He will provide for your needs and carry you through every situation you face if you lean on Him and let Him guide you in getting the help you need. In addition to possibilities like extended family, friends and neighbors, your church family and professional caregivers, God is also on your side. When you think of it that way, you can move from a position of desperation to one of gratitude and abundance!
Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver dot com and share your heart about finding your Tonto.