Sunday, October 9, 2016

5 Guidelines For When You Care About Someone Who's Feeling Punky

Are you feeling punky, out of sorts, depleted ... or care for someone who is?

Last week, we talked about 'punkiness' and what we can choose to do when we find ourselves in that unsettling niche.  Our back and forth conversation on self-care and grace was enlightening and if you didn't get to read it, I hope you'll click here to do so.

Obviously, 'feeling punky' is not a medical term, but rather what I see to be a complex exhausting depletion as body, mind, and soul begin a slow fade in response to being overloaded, overscheduled, over stimulated, or overwhelmed.

This can arise from physical maladies, grief, transitions, burnout, compassion fatigue, hormonal imbalances, an endless ability to say 'no,' boundary-less living, family disasters, job loss, financial upheavals, or untended emotional woundedness.

In other words, life ratched out of control.

Left untended to, this soul-level exhaustion can lead to anxiety, depression, and a host of other ailments that require medical attention.




Today's post focuses on the caregiver of the one who is not feeling like herself.  

I'm taking the liberty of using feminine words in referring to the one who is ailing to avoid the awkward she / he / they.  And using the term caregiver / he to describe the one who ... well ... cares.  Feel free to flip the words around to suit your own particular family or friend scenario.

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It's a downright challenge to care for someone who's been feeling poorly for awhile.  

A caregiver might believe that he's somehow gotta fix whatever ails her, or pull some kind of magic wand out of his sleeve to wave her symptoms into oblivion.  Perhaps he's more than frustrated that she hasn't pulled herself up by her bootstraps.

Her pessimistic attitude, lack of energy, and litanies of her aches and pains have left him depleted in ways that surprise and yes, alarm him.

And honestly?  He might secretly muse that if she was right with God, then whatever's troubling her should have been over and done with by now.

It doesn't work that way.  Sorry.

Dear caregiving friend, here's 2 huge questions to ask yourself right smack dab in the midst of it all:


How can I be safe for her?

How can I love her well?




5 caregiving guidelines to educate and encourage you:

1.  Ask her what she needs.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's a significant question that might begin to empower her, giving her the freedom to give voice to what's swirling around deep inside ... especially if she discerns that her caregiver truly wants to hear what she's offering up.

He might be quite taken back or even a bit defensive as he listens to her concerns ... and he might completely disagree with the to-do list that emerges.  Or perhaps he finds her request to pray together awkward and uncomfortable.  Or he finds himself just a bit antsy when he hears that she simply longs for him to sit quietly with her for awhile.

The wise caregiver won't use these moments as an opportunity to squirm or debate, instead choosing to tend to her requests with grace that could only come from above.


2.  Don't tell her not to feel that way.
It can be quite difficult for her to actually articulate what is true for her in ways that the caregiver can fully grasp.  She longs for him to validate those feelings even if they make no sense to him.  The worst response is for him to refuse to offer her that grace of validation ... or to lecture her for feeling the way she does.

Obnoxiously demanding that she 'stop being anxious' or 'stop being depressed' are a fool's errand and will do nothing more than alienate the caregiver from the one he's trying to care for.  If she wasn't feeling poorly before, his stubborn refusal to be fully present and engaged with her will create immense frustration in her, generating feelings of being disrespected and stirring up anger.

Because she might not have the energy to debate him, her anger just might end up lodged somewhere deep within.  Very simply put, over time, anger turned inward can lead to depression.  Ongoing poor, disrespectful communication skills can result in a toxic emotional mess that could have been avoided.

It doesn't mean that the caregiver tells her that she's absolutely 100% right.  Instead, he offers the ultimate gift of complete focus on her as she speaks, he nods his head because he's listening well, he asks respectful questions to clarify, he tells her he's hearing her heart.


3.  Don't try to fix her.
A human being isn't a machine to program, adjust, manipulate, tinker with.  Our bodies, brains, and spirits are delicately intertwined and incredibly complex.  A doctor is the only one who can fully diagnose physical or brain issues and their impact on daily functioning.

Take the pressure off yourself, my caregiving friend.  And gently come alongside her to make and keep those needed medical appointments.


4.  Work together to create a healing team.
No one heals in a vacuum.  We all need community and maybe never more than when punkiness arrives and for one reason or another, refuses to leave.  Everyone's healing team looks different, but yours could include medical professionals, emotionally healthy family and friends, a counselor / coach / support group, prayer partners, meal providers, church and community resources, even online help from reputable sites.

The best thing about an interactive healing team?  It ends up being a lifeline not just for the one who ails, but for the caregiver, too, who is often suffering in his own way.


5.  Take care of yourself.
This whole caregiving thing is not for the faint of heart, is it.  Get out of the house, do the things you love to do, continue to live your life as best you can.  Nurture your relationship with Christ, carve out time for those friends who make you laugh, stay strong.

Andrew Budak-Schmeisser's A Caregiver's Bill of Rights offers an interesting perspective for the spouses of those who are dying.  You might find it helpfully empowering for your own particular situation, as well.



What would you add to this list?  Come gather 'round the table and let your voice be heard in the comments section.  

And if you found these guidelines helpful or know someone who might benefit from this discussion, feel free to share via Facebook, Twitter, text, or email.



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I'm at
Anita's  .  Crystal's  .  Beth's  . Holley's 

60 comments:

  1. Good advice, Linda. It can be quite difficult, and often heart-breaking, to be a carer. Prayers for carers and those they care for.

    God bless you.

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    1. Sure, we pray for the sick, but are we faithful in lifting up those who tend to their needs? It's not an easy task, is it.

      Thanks for your gentle reminder, Victor ...

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  2. Wonderful pieces of advice Linda. The one you mentioned about "fixing" someone rang true. Many times the problem is so complex, it can't be fixed in a moment, but takes time. Being there as a constant for someone, not expecting, not preaching, but just loving can perhaps be the greatest blessing in the life of someone in a deep struggle. Praying for you too, that the Lord continues to do beautiful things in your life, in the midst of your health struggles, and that those struggles will be further used in His purpose to encourage others. Blessings and hugs to you!

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    1. I'm guessing that most of us have a 'wanna fix this' gene inside somewhere! I'd like to think this deep desire comes from a compassionate heart, not a controlling one.

      May we learn how to more quickly release those we love to the One who created them in the first place.

      Thanks for joining the conversation on this quiet holiday, friend ...

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  3. Very wise words of advice, Linda. No, we can't "fix" another human being, but we can certainly be there for them in ways that say we care deeply.
    Blessings!

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    1. Well said, friend. And because we're each shaped so very differently, it can be a most vibrant bouquet we all combine to offer each other ...

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  4. These 5 guidelines are so good, Linda. Sounds like you've been there? :) Blessings to you, friend. I appreciate how you share your wisdom with us.

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    1. If I haven't learned it first hand, my clients have taught me.

      Bless them all today!

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  5. God bless you for this wonderful post! I have been a care giver for much of my life (as a mom, special needs mom, foster mom), and you have given so much wisdom here. The first point is probably the best, just ask! Although often we know we need help but don't even know what we need, so it's great that you give other ideas too. Thanks for a helpful list.

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    1. I'm glad you're here today, Sara.

      It sounds like serving as a caregiver has been a huge part of your life ... and who you are as a woman. May you be blessed as you share your rich learnings with others who are called to this difficult task ...

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  6. Thank you for your guidelines. I haven't been in a primary caregiver role, but I'm sure I will have the chance someday.
    Great wisdom and advice!
    #InspireMeMonday neighbor,
    Julie

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    1. You hit the nail on the head, Julie. Sooner or later, we will be invited to embrace this role, whether we ask for it or not. May God give us a delightful portion of His energy and grace as we enter that arena.

      May we love well ...

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  7. We've had my mother-in-law in our home for over 3 years now. She's 88 and bedridden and rarely speaks except for an occasional "Thank you" or "I love you." Overall she seems content, though she'll go through cycles where all she wants to do is sleep, and we wonder if her time is coming. But then she perks back up in a couple of days.

    If I were in the position of needing a caregiver, one of the things that would bug me is having people around me all the time. I'm an introvert who is drained by too much interaction and energized by solitude. So I wonder for some people if just leaving them alone for a bit and giving them time to work things out in their own mind helps as much as anything. But that probably depends on the personality - more gregarious people would benefit from more interaction.

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    1. Oh, you, too? The introvert in me is nodding vigorously at your observations about interaction and solitude. I am so resonating with your words, Barbara.

      Thank you so much for adding to this conversation. A loving and attentive introverted caregiver is a special breed indeed ...

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  8. Amen, sister! Spoken as a woman who has been married for awhile and worked with more than a couple of marriages!! Good counsel here, Linda!

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    1. For sure, Pam. You KNOW that most of our learnings never came from books or degrees but from the relationships we've been honored to share along the way.

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  9. Such wisdom here, Linda. #2 and #3 especially are points I have learned first through feeling "punky" myself and knowing what helps and what makes one feel worse. I remember my counselor once said to me, "It's ok to be depressed." It is?! I have since learned that it's better to "allow" a person to feel that way, and if we try to "quick fix" it, it will only make them feel worse. And sometimes it's better to say less and pray more. To just keep showing love gestures... Blessings and hugs to you!

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    1. Don't you just love when someone finally gives you permission to be right where you are?!

      It's only at those junctures that we can begin to make really wise, empowered decisions ... and breathe the deepest sigh of relief.

      Super point, friend ...

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  10. Hi Linda! I was a caregiver for my dad when he had shoulder surgery. I lived with him for a month, and some days, he was really down. I had to work at keeping my spirits up, so I wouldn't be influenced by his mood.
    Caretakers are givers. You can't give if you never fill, so that walk, or a little shopping trip, even to the grocery store can be a welcome break.
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. It's next to impossible not to be influenced by those we love and care for. It's a rollercoaster that can really throw us off course emotionally.

      Let's hear it for getting out of the house, being with people who refill our wells, for renewing our energy so we can return to love and serve well.

      Thank you, dear caregiver for sharing a bit of your story. I know this has been a difficult year for you ...

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  11. Linda, such wonderful advice. Having been fighting chronic pain for 5 years, my husband and I have been learning these very things.
    It's good to meet you.

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    1. Oh Amanda, someone I love lives with chronic pain, too. I have had a peek into your world.

      You are brave and I am grateful you're in on this conversation. It's so very good to meet you, too ...

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  12. I love the part about creating a healing team. No caregiver can do it all and know it all. The team becomes a crucial part of helping everyone get through the punkiness!

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    1. Yay, team!

      We were never meant to do life alone, were we, Christa. Especially during those times we'd like nothing better than to isolate ourselves completely ...

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  13. Wow, Linda, this is so good and freeing. I have some younger women in my life who sometimes struggle, and this is so helpful for me. By the way, I also looked at your previous post about what to do when we're feeling punky. SO GOOD!

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    1. Younger, older ... feeling poorly crosses all ages, genders, race, faith lines. These bodies were never meant to last forever.

      But our souls? Now that's another story!

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  14. Wise words, My Friend. So often, we just need to be heard!
    Blessings!

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    1. I'm thinking it's one of our most basic desires ...

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  15. Great points Linda to help us care for someone. For me 3 that fix point has been the one that trips me up often. It's easy to slip over the line when you can clearly see how such and such would help that person. Thank God I have the Lord to trust to do that, it's my rock I go to on this one. Number 5 is something I am working on daily. Encouraging post.

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    1. We do love to fix ... and sometimes our motivations are pure and right! And yet what worked for us at one point doesn't always work for another ... and each of us has to be responsible for our own choices.

      {sigh}

      This can be hard stuff to navigate, for sure. And yes, I'm with you ... focusing on #5 in this season. I think it honors Christ ...

      Always glad when you're here, friend. You always bring something oh so good to the table.

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  16. Those two questions (How can I be safe for her? How can I love her well?) are challenging me right now, Linda. I want to do both those things for someone in my life, but it's hard when the person isn't who she once was and you are struggling to come to terms with that. Phew ... just writing that is hard. But true. Thank you for providing a gentle place to process, if only just a little.

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    1. That you've found this a gentle place to process has made my day, Lois. I pray that you'll have clarity as to what it might look like to live this out with this someone that the Lord has allowed to be in your life.

      Blessings as you do so ...

      Hard stuff, yes?

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  17. Great suggestions, Linda! I'm including a link to this post in my weekly newsletter :).

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    1. Oh cool! I love that you're sharing the love!

      ;-}

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  18. This is such good advice. I could have used it a couple of years ago in my own experience of this with a friend. Caregiving is definitely not for the faint of heart. It's far too easy to take on too much responsibility and neglect to care for yourself. I'll be sharing more in a post later this month but it's one that is proving tough to write and your words here are helping me process some more.

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    1. I'm already looking forward to your post, Lesley!

      I understand what you're saying when you mentioned that it's proving to be a tough one to write. As it marinates and you massage it and let it sit some more, may you be pleased with the words God wraps altogether for you to share.

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  19. This is such a practical guide for "one-anothering," especially because it so REALISTICALLY acknowledges that there are times in life when we are not our best selves. This is when the "for better or for worse" kicks in, and I'm so thankful for my patient husband, because often, I'm afraid, I'm wors-er than he is!

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    1. Good morning, Michele! I love that you've taken this to the next level ... those 'one-anothering' verses surely do show us how to live well, love well, and yes, be safe for each other ... especially under the most trying of circumstances.

      Thankfully, God doesn't leave us on our own to navigate these rough seasons. Where would we be without Jesus?

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  20. So...when our youth pastor's wife calls me a "punk" this is not what she means? :) Yeah, I can be annoying. LOL. I think you are so right though Linda. There is a dearth of caring in today's world-real caring- and it takes the followers of Jesus to get serious about it to make a difference.

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    1. Get serious.

      Yeah, I like that angle, Bill.

      And let's not wait til a huge crisis emerges for us to love each other well ... and be safe for each other to pave the way for that to happen.

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  21. I love, love, love this, Linda! Your advice is so spot on--especially when the caregiver is a man. It seems they are at a loss as to how to help sometimes, so your suggestions give them practical handles for grabbing their part in this needed ministry. I especially love number 1. It's so simple and yet eludes many of us when we are in this kind of stress-filled situation. Hugs to you!

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    1. You're right, Beth. Sometimes we need someone to take us by the hand with some some steps ... 'cause we want so badly to move ahead but aren't quite sure of the best way to do it.

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  22. Hi Linda,
    The challenges of a caregiver for someone who is under the weather is such an interesting angle! It so hard to sometimes have the words to say or the acts that speak love when someone is hurting but you offer such wonderful practical tips to meet that crisis. I'm going to save this one to refer to it again and again!

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    1. Oh, that means so much to me, Valerie. I hope this discussion will offer you encouragement in the days ahead. Sooner or later we're all gonna need someone to come along side of us ... and we're gonna have the opportunities to do the same for others.

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  23. Linda, you hit the nail on the head. Having been on both sides of "punky", I think it's perhaps more challenging to be the caregiver. The only difference I experienced was that the person couldn't always articulate what he needed. I might add proximity and consistency to the list: staying close, but not intrusive, and deliberately sending the same message of love and acceptance. Thank you for taking on a tough topic!

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    1. You said this, Alice -->'staying close, but not intrusive.' What a fine line that can be, one that requires continued discernment and an ability to back off ... or step up to the plate.

      God alone can help us have that kind of gracious sensitivity!

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  24. Dear Linda,
    What great advice! I pray God continues to encourage and strengthen you as you recover and for your husband who cares for you. ((hugs))

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    1. This is a better week, for sure! Praising God for slow and steady healing ...

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  25. Wise words, as always. Being a caregiver is such a tough and thankless job. I hope you are healing well!

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  26. These are all so valid and are great sound advise. Number one is so important as often I might think I know what someone may want, and then feel badly when I seemed to have just made the situation worse. I think the first thing, is to just be and listen, and not offer advise, and is the lesson I have had to learn over and over, especially as one who just wants to make it better (which really is God's role, not mine).

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    1. Dear Lynn - yes, yes, yes to your wise words to just be and listen and not offer advice.

      That's a hard one for alot of us who think we always have to have a solution at the tip of our tongues. It takes the pressure off to perform and have all the answers and allows us to begin to be safe for the one we care for.

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  27. Great advice for dealing with my tweenager. She gets in moods and can't be reasoned with or consoled. These are the times I have to give her space to work through her emotions. Glad to be your neighbor at #heartencouragement

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    1. Ah, the tweenagers. Lord, have mercy. Let's hear it for mamas like you who know exactly when to step back and give her time and space.

      I'm glad you shared this, Kelly. I'm glad you're here!

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  28. Two things...a) now I know what has been going on with me over the past year or so, your unofficial medical diagnosis confirms it! I've been feeling punky...all the above with those symptoms Linda! b) I know that I made the right decision backing away from this online world and caring for me and allowing my heart to heal. Here's to caring for ourselves and less punky, brighter days ahead! ;) xoxo

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    1. You said it well, Nicki. Sometimes we need to step back from all the shoulda-woulda-couldas and find rest and healing for body and soul.

      Sometimes writing is cathartic ... and other times it's nothing more than yet another demand on our energy. It sounds like you've chosen very well.

      Welcome back ...

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  29. Your words hit a target today, Linda. Girl, I'm so thankful for this visit. You're speaking life and direction to one who was asking about this very topic yesterday and even this morning. Praise.the.Lord.

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    1. Oh, praise God! His timing is impeccable, He loves us so. Your words have led to goosebumps, friend ...

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  30. Number 3 hit home ... no matter the level of caregiving. People aren't machines to be fixed. Moods to be lightened. But just coming alongside - that's what friends are for. Thank you, Linda, for sharing your heart and wisdom.

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    1. I love how you've said it, Crystal ... 'coming alongside.' What a calming, peaceful gift to give another soul, the simple offering of our attentive, sensitive presence.

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda