Long Distance Caregiving and the ability to accept help – Saying yes to help has always been difficult for me, and I was truly put to the test this summer. My husband Michael and I had agreed that we would be the caregivers to my Mother and Father, as well as his Mom, but we never thought they would all need our care at the same time, that is exactly what happened in May. We went from caring for ourselves to caring for ourselves, a mom who had a stroke, a dad who is on dialysis and has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and another mom who was in a car accident and had to have surgery on her shattered ankle. Long Island is where they all live and New Hampshire is where we live; a five-hour drive one way has been a joy for visits and now it was a barrier to care.
November is National Caregivers Month and this quote form AARP really hurt my heart and I knew saying yes to help and being clear on the help needed would be difficult at first, but it did become easier.
In the United States, about 40 million people provide unpaid care to an ill or disabled adult. One-quarter of those caregivers have been in their roles for five years or longer. And these loving helpers often go it alone. Only half of family caregivers say they get unpaid help from another family member or friend.
Both asking for help and accepting help is a humbling experience and can be difficult for the caregiver and the care receiver. Remember that you are caring for another person and they may or may not want your help but by helping, their life is blessed and healing happens. Why is it so difficult for us as caregivers to accept help? Everyone needs help and care. We as caregivers need to make sure we listen to what we are saying to our care receivers which is accept the help as it is out of love and care. We need to do the same.
Throughout my life I have been a joyous giver, and as I was teaching young people about giving I realized that to be a joyous giver you must be a joyous receiver. If you cannot accept a gift from another with joy and thanks giving, you do not really understand the symbiotic relationship between giving and receiving. How do you accept help and let others be filled with the gift of giving and helping? You simply say yes and let them help. Ok it takes a little thought and planning, but it isn’t as difficult as it may seem.
We were feeling overwhelmed by the details of getting all three of our parents up to New Hampshire and moved into our home, so we could keep our business running and our jobs intact. Logistics, insurance, rehab, nursing, medical records, doctors, hospitals, mail, newspapers, bills, lawns, and the list goes on and on. We had friends wanting to help, but they needed guidance as to how to help and a simple list made our lives a little brighter and their heart filled with giving joy. As needs changed, we changed our list, but I kept a list of those who offered help and I would text, e-mail, or call them when I had a need and you know they all came through and their hearts were filled as were ours.
Meals: Meatloaf was a regular request of my father’s, everyone asked if there were dietary needs and they were willing to adapt. Oh, and we did like desserts as well. Some made homemade meals and others picked up and delivered take out for us. All of it was wonderful and saved Michael and I time and money.
Shopping: Ever now and then we realized we were out of eggs or needed a prescription picked up or simply olive oil. I asked people to let me know when they were running to the market and if I needed something I asked them to pick it up, even getting us milk for our coffee sometimes was the best gift they could give us.
Transportation: For us transportation took up a lot of our time. My dad has dialysis 3 times a week and our Moms had doctors’ appointments and we were trying to keep our business up and running. There was one friend who told us which dialysis days he was available, and he took my Dad a few times, and my Dad always enjoyed the conversation and change of pace.
Conversation: For me, working at home and caring for three parents caused a great deal of stress and I realized that I needed my friends to just call and talk with me about everyday things. I just wanted to stay connected to the rest of my friends and for me just conversation and friends spending time with me catch up made a real difference. For some caregivers they may enjoy a walk with a friend, or run. Others might just need some time to themselves and need a friend to visit with their care receiver, so they can take a break.
Message of Love: Michael and I also found that a simple text message, e-mail, or card expressing care for us warmed our hearts and made us smile.
These were our top 5, but I am sure I could go on and on as I give it more thought. As caregivers we just wanted to stay connected to our lives and know that we are cared for as well. Oh, if you are a part of a church, volunteer, synagogue or other community, make sure you let them know you might need some help, they can be a great source of joy, but they can’t help if they don’t know. (This happened to us, but that is another story, we thought they knew.)
A GREAT family doing whatever is required to care for each other – Thanks for the example!
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