Claire Abel, The Caregiver’s Voice Caregiver of the Month of January 2012, still finds joy in caregiving. Read her story here and learn how she finds joy in caregiving next week when we feature Part 2. (TCV Ed.)
Finding My Own Joy in Caregiving — Part 1 of 2
Guest Post by Claire Abel
My Mom, Anne, has lived with my husband, Lyle, and me for the last 15 1/2 years. She was 87 when she arrived, old in years, but not in spirit or her desire to live life. That was nice for me because I could take her everywhere, shopping, out to breakfast, lunch or dinner, out with friends, to concerts, visiting friends at their homes and to church. She never said ‘no’ and loved getting out if just to ride in the car.
My Mom is now 102. She is still in relatively good health and takes no medication at all, except for vitamins. However, her hearing is very bad and even with her hearing aids, she has difficulty with conversations. Her macular degeneration has deteriorated her eyesight to the point where she can no longer read and can hardly see the TV screen.
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She fills her days by listening to ‘talking books’ which I get for her from the library. She is still able to go out, but it is not easy walking down our 15 steps from her bedroom or back up them again, so we plan our days where she does not have to tackle this feat more than once a day, and only with our assistance which has been necessary for many years.
Her memory is not what it once was and since she is completely aware of that fact, it makes her panicky at times. I told her thatbeing aware of her forgetfulness or loss of memory is a good thing and not to worry because we are here to help her with everything. People that are in an advanced state of dementia are not aware of this.
The title of one of my favorite songs is There is joy in serving Jesus.
Serving Jesus can be done in different ways; for example, in Matthew 25: 37–40, the Bible states:
37″Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
I am blessed that she has been able to completely care for her bodily needs for so long– cleaning herself and dressing herself with the clothes that I laid out for her. Only lately, I’ve had to step in assist her in more personal ways. This embarrasses her to a great degree. I try to assure her that I understand and that it is not easy for me either but that she should try and be thankful that her daughter cares enough to do these personal things instead of a stranger.
It is not easy for me when she takes my help as a personal insult and I do not always react in a positive manner. I am the only one doing this for her and I am turning out to be ‘the bad guy.’ At that point, I have to leave the room to ‘regroup,’ many times in tears. I do not want to say something that I will later regret because it is not necessarily what you say, but the tone of voice you use to say it. Kindness under pressure is easier to say than to do; nevertheless, it is of utmost importance.
TCV Ed.: Please return next week for Part 2 of Finding my Own Joy in Caregiving. Claire writes about her support system (Hint: only a few but treasured people) and the sources of her joy.