Claire Abel, The Caregiver’s Voice Caregiver of the Month of January 2012, finds joy in caregiving. But it isn’t easy. Read Part 1 of her story (click on underlined link).
Finding My Own Joy in Caregiving — Part 2 of 2
Guest Post by Claire Abel
I have found, over the years that my being able to cope in a happy, positive manner depends on no one other than ME. First of all, I have to be happy! So I try to get enough sleep. No one can function or have patience with the lack of sleep when everything feels overwhelming. I try to surround myself with the things that I love and that make me happy. I have my two Maltese sweeties, Snuggle and Pancake. I love music. It immediately transports me to another level and fills the house with beautiful melodies. I love to sing to the music! Attending church every week helps ‘recharge my batteries.’ Afterward, I am equipped again to face a new week knowing that I am not in this alone–“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
My husband is always there for me and many times will tell me to just go out and ‘roam’ and he will take care of Mom. Sometimes, just a change of scenery changes my whole outlook. When I reflect on the stressful events of the day, they no longer loom that large!
I only have a few close friends and a dear cousin on the East Coast who are either in the same position or have been caregivers. They are the only people I can talk with who can really relate to what we go through with our loved ones. Others sympathize but can’t empathize. It is very easy for others to say, “Oh, I know what you are going through,” when they simply do not have a clue. Somehow, just talking to someone who understands and cares helps. That is what a support system is all about.
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One day, I was very teary and upset after Mom said, “I just want to die.” She had said that to me several times in the past. Knowing that I am the most sensitive one in the family, I could not understand why she would ‘lay that on me’ and turn right around and act perfectly fine and happy when a phone call came for her a few minutes later! It hurt me and I really resented it. Tell someone else, but don’t tell me, is how I felt! I am doing my best to literally keep you alive!
Several minutes later, a dear friend and retired doctor called and was talking to my husband, Lyle. He told me to pick up the other line. When I got on the phone, Lyle explained that I was upset because my Mom had just unloaded on me. I asked, “Why would she say that TO ME, of all people, and not to anyone else?” The first words out of his mouth were, “Well, of course she would say that to you! YOU are the closest person to her in the whole world and the only one to whom she can relate her deepest feelings to.” My whole outlook changed in minutes. I lost the resentfulness. Instead, I felt honored that she felt close enough to me to tell me her deepest feelings at that particular moment. I wrote that dear man a note telling him how God used him to change my whole outlook on the situation and how grateful I was for his insight.
My JOY comes from many sources.
It is just knowing that I have been taking care of my Mom and am fully committed to it. I cannot depend on anyone else simply because no one else, aside from my husband, has made that commitment!
It comes from the look in Mom’s eyes when I tuck her into bed and, as I kiss her, she looks into my eyes and says, “Thank you for all you did for me again today, honey. I appreciate it more than you will ever know. Where would I be without you and Lyle?”
It comes when she says, “I love you more than you could possibly know.”
It comes when Mom says, “Claire, you are so good to me, really you are.”
It comes when I leave her room, I am walking out of her bedroom in our home—her home—and not out of a room in a nursing home.
It is knowing that I have done the best job I could possibly have done for 15 1/2 years and that leaves no room for regrets.
And most importantly, my joy comes from knowing that if I had to make that same choice to invite Mom to live with us today, 15 1/2 years later, I would make the same choice!
To quote a line from a beautiful Gaither song, “And when relationships demand commitment then I’ll be there to care and follow through.”
TCV Editor: How do YOU find the JOY in caregiving? Leave your reply below.