Monday, January 21, 2019

5 Essential Don'ts for Caregivers . . . and 2 Surprising Questions to Consider



Are you feeling kinda blue, a bit punky, out of sorts, or strangely depleted?

Illness, grief, transitions, burnout, compassion fatigue, hormonal imbalances, an endless ability to say 'no,' boundary-less living, family disasters, job loss, financial upheavals can take us there.

We considered what this looks like in our last post - check it out here.  You might spy yourself somewhere in there ... and be able to grab some practical, hands-on help.




Today's post focuses on the caregiver of the one who is suffering.   

Originally written back in 2016, I'm guessing this to be somewhere in the top ten most important posts I've penned since 2008.

Because kind, compassionate words breathe life and lend much-needed hope.  Insensitive, thoughtless words wound the already fragile soul ... and can wreck havoc on a valued relationship.

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 can be a daunting 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, please don't make a bad situation worse than it already is.  I've got two crucial 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 don'ts for you to consider:

1.  Don't tell her what she needs.
This seems like a no-brainer, but asking someone what she needs is a significant move that could 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 empathize, 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.  Don't go it alone.
No one heals in a vacuum.  We all need community and maybe never more than when the blues arrive and for one reason or another, refuse 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.  Don't ignore your own needs.
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.

Long-time reader 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.

Been there?  Done that? 
Let's talk ...




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40 comments:

  1. Linda, thank you so much for the callout. I'm honoured.

    One further suggestion I'd make is not to foster dependence, especially by denigrating the contribution of an ill spouse. Saying, "I'll take care of the dishes, you're too tired and won't do a good job anyway" is kinda devastating..

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2019/01/your-dying-spouse-569-light-beyond.html

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    1. I'm honored to share YOUR work, man. You continue to show us how to do heartbreaking seasons well.

      And for sure ... that back-handed dish washing comment slam is so very passive aggressive, reflecting the commenter's own untended to emotions ...

      Whether it's said out loud or simply implied.

      * ouch *

      Delete
  2. Great reminders for all caregivers. It is so easy to try to take charge of the situation as a way of helping out - instead of acknowledging what the person wants. I struggle between the "Mary and Martha" syndrome. You don't have to be just one or the other - be both. Do what needs to be done, but make sure you are ready to sit, listen or just be there. Both are needed.

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    1. I love what you're saying here, Marilyn ... we can be both Mary and Martha ... we can sit at the feet of Christ as well as serve Him and others in ways that are practical.

      In the same week ... or in various seasons of life.

      Yes, that is who we are, that is what we do.

      Delete
  3. So true for both sides-the caregiver and the receiver. I really don't like being told what to do, so why would I think someone else does? I can say that when parenting I would fall into "you should do this" and Mom fix-it. These tips could apply so much to overall parenting too. Thank you Linda

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    1. Wow, Lynn ... I never thought of how this is associated with parenting as well. I'm going to head back and re-read the post with those lenses. Thank you for opening that door, friend ...

      Cool!

      Delete
  4. I appreciate your saying "It doesn't mean that the caregiver tells her that she's absolutely 100% right." I was thinking that as I read, that the one ailing might actually be "off" in her perceptions. But as you say, she needs a safe space to say what's on her heart, not a frontal attack or a setting straight. We all need to apply truth to our thoughts and feelings, but that can be done in a gentle way, in God's timing, and *after* listening well.

    The first one is so important, too. What we think might minister to someone else might not be what would mean the most for them. When my m-i-l was in assisted living, I would "feel" more useful if I could physically do something, like straighten up her room. But that made her agitated and made her feel like "a bad housekeeper," she said. What ministered to her most was just sitting and talking and listening, even though we cycled through the same conversations over and over.

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    1. This right here is so very true, Barbara -->'What ministered to her most was just sitting and talking and listening.' And isn't that what we're all yearning for ... to be listened to, to be affirmed, to connect with another.

      You continue to be in my prayers as you grieve your mother-in-law's passing. May God fill the void with more of Himself. May your writing give you comfort and purpose.

      I'm so very sorry for your loss ...

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  5. As I read this today, Linda, I felt it was speaking directly to my heart and to Danny's as we have now reached the one year mark of caring for his mother. It is exhausting, but necessary. And as frustrated as we've both become at times, I know this season has brought both of us closer to God (my word "lean" for the year was no mistake). We do have support from hospice, which has been invaluable, and my son has also helped in the caregiving, which does give us the opportunity to get away together for a few hours. What a blessing!
    Praying that your words today will comfort and encourage all those in the position of care giver. Blessings, Linda!

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    1. I most certainly hear where you are and where you're coming from, Martha.

      Yes, I do.

      You're living out a no-regrets lifestyle and there is great peace and consolation in doing so. And yes, praise God for palliative care and hospice.

      I hold them in highest esteem.

      You, too, friend ...

      Delete
  6. Linda,
    Thank you for sharing words of compassion and wisdom to those caregiving. What a gift :-) Blessing to you :-)

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    1. Sooner or later we'll all be a caregiver ... or in need of one.

      Neither is an easy road.

      This I know for sure ...

      Delete
  7. These rules work well for other areas of life too. I was a caregiver for my mom for almost 4 years after she suffered a stroke. I know it's not easy. These tips are spot on. They show such great insight. Thank you!

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    1. Laurie ... I always sit up and listen when someone's been there, done that. Thank you for being here ...

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  8. Great post and wise counsel. Blessed are the caregivers!
    Blessings on you, Linda!

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  9. Having finished my own caregiving journey (for now), I am continually finding myself in a position to listen and offer support to friends of similar age who are now embarking upon that season. It's such a load, and we do need to be there for each other.

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    1. The key phrase is 'for now,' isn't it, Michele. Sometimes this call springs up unannounced.

      But that's ok. He's got it. And He sends us those who've been there, done, that.

      Like you ...

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  10. I love the wisdom you share, as always. Caregiving is definitely not for the faint-hearted! Supporting a friend with anorexia and depression is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and I definitely struggled with your points 3, 4 and 5, particularly the pressure that because she would tell me things she wouldn't tell others that I had to figure out a way to fix it. I'm sharing your post and praying that it reaches those who would benefit from these insights just now.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to share here ... and with your people, Lesley. We're all going to be on the giving and receiving ends of this challenge and to serve one another with grace, humor, and energy is a high calling indeed.

      Bless you for being there for your friends.

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  11. Thank you for these insightful tips, Linda. Also for sharing Andrew's tips. As others have said, they can be applied to other life situations, too. I love your reminder that "kind, compassionate words breathe life and lend much-needed hope." Oh, so true. By the way, ever since your first "punky" post, I have a new word in my thinking. Yesterday, out of nowhere, it popped into my head that I was feeling "punky!" Love and blessings to you!

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    1. Well, I hope you're feeling stronger today, friend! January and February can be tough months as we tend to be closeted inside more often than not.

      This morning I perched on the bottom corner of the bed to catch the sun's early morning rays during devotions.

      Bliss ...

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  12. Your words are such a gift and this is why. You outlined what to do for caregivers and also validated how they feel. I have been in the caregiver role and each point you made of what not to do pairs well with what you wrote to do. Community and just being present for that caregiving friend are the perfect gifts for healing. Beautiful, just beautiful!

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    1. Mary, thank you so much. I always value hearing what someone who's been through the fire has to say.

      And you did it so warmly {no pun intended}.

      Bless you, friend ...

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  13. I coսldn't resist commenting. Exceptionallү well written!

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  14. This post doesn't really apply to me (that I'm aware) but I find it very informative and intuitive.. thanks for sharing! - http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com

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    1. Gingi, you're fortunate ...

      And kind to leave a comment anyway. That's sweet!

      ;-}

      Delete
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    1. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way, don't we ...

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  16. This is great, don't forget to care for the caregivers. 24/7 will wear you out.

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  17. When I read posts on care giving, I once again process how I walked a friend through cancer. She passed over a year ago now, but I so wish I could go back and take back the times when I just wanted to fix the situation and fix her. It's so hard for the healthy to slow down for the sick and just BE with them---tossing aside the need to progress and fix. I hope to be better prepared for the next loved one who needs care. Good advice!!!!

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    1. Amy, you said it all right here --> 'It's so hard for the healthy to slow down for the sick and just BE with them---tossing aside the need to progress and fix.'

      Grace, patience, kindness ... lots of Fruit of the Spirit needed as we do life with those who are ailing.

      There are no quick fixes, are there ...

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  18. I have a friend whose husband just had open heart surgery. She is a great caregiver but she feels so pressed for time between his needs and her job. Your thoughts are helpful for me as her friend.

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    1. Dear Lisa, she is so very blessed to have you walking with her through this scary, unsettling season ...

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  19. Oh Linda ... I'm not sure I can articulate what I feel as I read and reread these suggestions. Is it possible to feel regret for someone else who either didn't or couldn't provide care in these specific ways when he or she had the chance? There are a lot of fixers in my large family, that is for sure. In retrospect, there also are many things I wish I had done differently, but I'm so grateful for opportunities to love and care well now. These days, quiet presence is my favorite thing. Hugs, friend.

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    1. Yes, Lois, we can grieve what we have done or not done, and we can grieve for others and what they've done or not done. We can't own their choices, but we can pray for them, we can speak truth in love when needed, we can show grace, we can model healthy choices.

      And maybe showing grace towards ourselves is the hardest task of all?

      You've said it so beautifully, friend ... 'I'm so grateful for opportunities to love and care well now.'

      So we move ahead with confidence in the One who 'gives us everything for life and godliness.'

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  20. Linda, what a spot-on post. I've never been in a long-term caregiving role, but I can imagine how depleting that place is for a caregiver. Thanks for the reminders of the don't's in caregiving. After a stressful December with my mom being injured and me driving about 80 minutes each way to help my parents, I came out of that season drained. I hadn't been able to take time for myself because I had my own family to care for, plus Christmas preparations, plus a trip to prepare for. Plus . . . I ended up getting really sick just after the new year began. Even in roles of short-term care-giving, we need to make sure we also take care of ourselves, or we're no good to the ones we care for.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

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    1. You're so right about the need for a steady stream of self-care, Jeanne ... it's so easy to go full throttle into caregiving mode and neglect our health in the process.

      I hope you and your parents are doing better ... a rough start to the new year.

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Dear Reader ~

Technical glitches happen.

* sigh *

Doesn't seem to be a place to leave your comment? Or your comment doesn't show up within an hour or so?

I'd love if you'd email me your contribution ... I'd be delighted to hand post it as soon as possible.

lindastoll @ juno . com

My apologies. And thanks for the grace ...

Linda