The Miracle of Caregiving! Part 3.
What is required of us?
In Part one and Part two we looked at how we fell into this responsibility as caregiver and then tried to understand the overall situation. Today we look more closely at what the job demands from us.
Every situation is different and has its own unique challenges. Those who have to deal with dementia and alzheimer’s have their own set of hurdles. With Parkinson’s I think the slowness and inability of movement which every patient has to endure is the cause of much frustration in both the caregiver and those cared for. Everything happens in slow motion. Anything that can still be done by the person themselves is painfully slow.
I remember the day when my wife said “Hurry is no longer in my vocabulary!” She was right. There is little point in saying “Hurry up” because that adds frustration to the frustration. Allowing adequate time is the only solution. Leave extra preparation time. Adjust your thinking to accommodate delays. Something often goes wrong. Maybe another change of clothes at the last minute. Things always seem to happen when you least need them to happen.
Remember that which causes frustration is probably frustrating on both sides. Frustration can easily lead to irritability which is no help to anyone. We are especially vulnerable to this when we feel unwell ourselves and we know that we still have to do all the tasks which only we can do.
The great danger with slowness is that the caregiver wants to jump in and do things because they know they can do them much faster. That has to be resisted. We are there to help the cared for to be as independent as possible. It only makes them feel worse if small tasks which they can do are snatched away from them. As caregivers we have to be willing to allow things to take place at a snail’s pace if necessary. One has to remember that time is not of the essence in these circumstances but the emotional health of the cared for is. How much better for them to be praised for a small accomplishment than to be ready to go out of the house a couple of minutes earlier.
What do we need the most? A sense of humor goes a long way to keeping things on an even keel. Nobody wants to be laughed at but most enjoy being laughed with. There are funny sides to many of the issues with which we have to deal. I think the sentence “if you didn’t laugh you would cry” probably has its place here.
The times I have put pants on back to front is hilarious. Learning to cook and do the meals was another laughable occupation. I graduated from a fried or boiled egg to something more substantial but not without mishaps on the way. Mind you, I have to say that being proud of becoming more domesticated soon wears thin! So remember, laughter is important because it covers up awkwardness. It releases tension. It allows for joint acceptance of mistakes. A sense of humor will carry you through an otherwise tiresome day.
On a more serious note I would say we need love and patience. I think love must precede patience. When I say love I don’t just mean a sense of pity but loving the person for whom they are and for whom they have been and are to you at this moment. The situation calls for us to love them in it and through it.
Much patience will always be needed for the daily activities like the never ending chores, the difficulty in dressing, the constant slowness and the inability to cooperate – even if the desire to cooperate is there. Sensitivity and patience is especially called for when in public. Do the assisting as unobtrusively as possible, not making a show of it. It is natural that incapacities bring on self-consciousness and even embarrassment. In our public caring we need to minimize and alleviate that as much as possible.
So what is it that we need? We need a sense of humor. We need understanding, compassion, love and patience. When we have these, we cannot but help having a real sensitivity to the feelings of the one for whom we care.