Interview: One Caregiver’s Story, Part 2
In Part One of my interview with Lori Hoeck, family caregiver for her mom, age 79, she candidly told us how her life has changed and shared the daily caregiving challenges she and her husband face.
Now we will move on to another subject — the rewards she’s received from being a caregiver, as well as advice for anyone who sees themselves becoming caregivers to their aging parents in the future.
Welcome back and thank you again for your time and honesty in sharing your story with us!
You’ve really had your hands full in so many ways, Lori. What advice would you give my readers if they see themselves becoming family caregivers in the near or distant future?
Understand the process of grief.
The paradigm shift from seeing a strong, independent adult who changed your diapers, wiped your nose, and shaped your life suddenly or gradually change into a person who is more dependent, sometimes helpless, or exhibits an altered personality is tough and often gut-wrenching.
It is important to understand the grief you will be going through as they decline physically, mentally, or emotionally is a process yourself and the loved one you are caring for are both experiencing! The stages of grief are:
Denial (this isn’t happening to me!)
Anger (why is this happening to me?)
Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…)
Depression (I don’t care anymore)
Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes)
It’s OK, just don’t get stuck in one of the first four stages forever. Also, try to understand how each state can negatively affect your relationships with family as well as friends.
Change your perspective.
My husband had this insight one day from God: “Why get angry at the tree when it loses its leaves? It is not the tree’s fault; it’s just the way it is.” These words help my husband realize much of my mom’s way of being isn’t her fault, and he can turn his mind away from negative thoughts like:
- She is being this way purposely
- She isn’t trying hard enough
- She is just seeking attention
- She should act more mature
Because, whether she is or isn’t acting these ways, it doesn’t matter. Instead, we have to say to ourselves, “How can we make this time of her life happier and less stressful?” Such revelations help caregivers to learn to roll with the punches – and surrender to the reality of the changes (but never to the illness).
I love this tree analogy, Lori! It is so true and adds so much compassion to the relationship. Your husband is a very special person to realize it and state it so beautifully.
Take care of yourself first!
For me, it’s like I learned in EMT training: When you arrive on an emergency scene keep yourself safe and healthy, because if you don’t, you won’t be able to help others and will probably tie up emergency resources that could be used to help the original victims. If you give all you’ve got to care-giving, you may become sick or burned out and not able to function in that capacity any more.
What do you do for self-care, Lori?
- Maintain a decent, healthy diet, but nothing too stressfully strict
- My husband will take my mom out for a few hours so I have the house to myself
- My husband has a healing touch with acupressure points, reflexology, and massage, so his loving TLC helps immensely
- The biggest self-care is an understanding of health from many years of searching for an answer to my depression. From that, and as a third degree black belt, I know myself pretty well. I firmly believe in what Louise Hay writes on the emotional triggers behind health issues — basically she says that we are more responsible for our own health than we realize. To this end,
- I take certain vitamins and supplements that are effective for me
- We all use the highly therapeutic Young Living Essential Oils for wellness
- I clean with products that aren’t filled with nasty chemicals
- I use an assortment of leading edge mental health therapies on myself such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP)
- I know my heart and mind well enough to ask for help if my outlook sinks too low
Don’t let guilt guide you.
Guilt is useless if it pulls you down, makes you beat yourself up, or is used as a manipulation tool by others. I’ve learned that guilt only has value when it’s a bone-marrow deep motivator for positive change.
Family may or may not support you. Their excuses will seem lame, they seem not to understand how much effort is involved, and they will seem to be more interested in not being inconvenienced. Or you may be too protective – addicted to being the do-gooder — so you let yourself become overwhelmed.
Either way, seek help. I could not do this without an amazing, loving husband to who has had to grow up just as fast as I in all this. Our maturity levels, ability to laugh at even the toughest times, and our closeness to God and each other has skyrocketed in the past few years. We are both convinced such change came only with help from God. We can’t take credit for coming through the tough times and staying sane and more loving toward each other and my mom.
It’s nice that your faith has helped you through this experience, Lori.
And what is the most rewarding or enjoyable part of caregiving for you?
For a long time, I endured caregiving as a duty-bound and loving daughter, so the only reward was in knowing I was doing the right thing, and that for the most part, I did it all quite well. I make a great caregiver because as a perfectionist, I tend to find the best ways to do it for all involved. That only gets you so far.
There are times when the duty becomes a drudgery that is draining mentally, physically, and emotionally. None of that was rewarding or enjoyable at the time, but as my husband and I sought to put the whole situation and our mindsets into God’s hands, we slowly grew through it all. We both explored our inner workings and sought to develop personally so that any anger, impatience, or wanting to control the situation lessened.
Looking back, I still can’t see any milestones, I just know my husband and I are far better people for being caregivers. Knowing we can now provide care for my mother on a more life-enriching level – instead of just out of duty – means that all of us benefit.
Lori, thank you for sharing your family’s personal story with us. Each caregiving journey is different, but it is always comforting to know others are “in the trenches” with us and to learn from their experiences. Please leave your comments and questions for Lori below.
Lori Hoeck writes as SpaceAgeSage at her personal development blog SpaceAgeSage.com. Please read more of what she’s written there or subscribe to her RSS feed here.
Update: To read my next interview with a family caregiver, click here now.