Giving Thanks for Family Caregivers and Their Stories

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I always think of November as the thankful month. Of course, we celebrate Thanksgiving this month, but it seems an excellent time to fully immerse myself in gratitude for a multitude of blessings. I am thankful for my family, good friends, satisfying work, opportunities to worship with my church family, and God’s gift of salvation in my life. I’m blessed to be able to honor God daily by helping others. One of my biggest blessings is the opportunity to help family caregivers find support, encouragement, and resources through Heart of the Caregiver.

God calls family caregivers to the difficult challenge of caring for others, usually aging family members. These gifted individuals are unsung heroes in many homes throughout our community today; they work tirelessly behind closed doors in quiet communities everywhere. Whether they care for spouses, grandparents, parents, or even adult children with chronic conditions or life challenges, they pour themselves out in care for others. We honor and thank all family caregivers during National Family Caregiver month!

Whether you give the hands-on care yourself or coordinate that care through others, you fulfill an important and irreplaceable role in our world today. You enable others to live at home, surrounded by familiar sights, sounds, and smells. You foster a safe level of independence while maintaining a healthy environment, medication management, and adequate socialization. Unfortunately, providing care yourself can leave you feeling exhausted and empty. It would be best if you found ways to re-energize yourself and reframe the care you are giving with creativity and innovation.

Have you ever pictured yourself, in the role of a family caregiver, as a family archivist? Seniors have a deep reservoir of wisdom and life experience that, when tapped, can be of great benefit to young and old alike. Family caregivers are uniquely positioned to capture, cultivate, and then communicate those insights and life lessons through conversations and storytelling opportunities. I call these the 3Cs of Family Storytelling. You can begin discussions with aging loved ones from which come seeds that blossom into beautiful tales of family experiences down through the ages.

You will need to decide how you will implement the 3Cs. Here are a few suggestions:

Capture: Initiate conversations with your loved one about their childhood, family gatherings and traditions, old friends, special events (like when Uncle Henry went off to war), and the like. You could go through old photos together to spark these conversations. 

Cultivate:

  1. Draw out nuances from time to time as you revisit these conversation topics.
  2. Let the conversation wander naturally and ask open-ended questions to gather more color.
  3. Encourage other family members or caregivers to add to your information this way and let your archives grow. You might also engage older family members to fill in the blanks or add details to enrich the family stories. 

Communicate: Share what you are learning and gathering with others connected to your family when you have opportunities to do so. During the holidays, family gatherings offer a natural time to swap stories and resurrect memories that foster a shared heritage, laughter, and hope. Family newsletters are also a popular way to keep others in the conversation. If family caregivers don’t try to find and record these rare nuggets, invaluable wisdom and family lore might be lost forever.

If you’d like more information on the 3Cs, please comment below or email me, and I’ll be happy to send you the document.

Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about ways to capture, cultivate, and communicate family stories throughout the holidays!

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