How to Get Support When Caring for a Loved One
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
The ballroom lights dimmed and the video screen lit up. “Welcome to the Conference,” it read. A picture of an adorable baby appeared, audience members oohed and aahed, and a voice from above said, “My wife and I are wondering what to do about Albert. He soils his diapers and throws a tantrum when we put him on the toilet. When we feed him, he spits his mashed potatoes in our faces. We’re trying to teach him to walk, but he plops down and refuses to budge. He cries a lot, sometimes inconsolably, and he drools so much that we keep a bib on him at all times. We spend hours trying to teach him a few simple words, but he just won’t talk. Sometimes he pulls away when we attempt to hug or hold him. We hesitate to bring him anywhere because he’s just so unpredictable and, quite frankly, we love him, but he embarrasses us.” The voice stopped talking for a couple of moments. Audience members murmured and elbowed each other. “Sounds like my kid, ha-ha-ha!”
The voice returned. “You probably think this is Albert.” The baby photo disappeared and was replaced by one of a very old man. “THIS is Albert,” the voice said. “He’s my father.” Silence fell. I looked around and noticed my fellow conference-goers were as stunned and moved as I was. Our perspectives were forever altered. Yet the ultimate question remains, “How do I get support when caring for my loved one?”
Caring for an elderly person, especially one receiving hospice services, and especially one diagnosed with dementia, is a labor in many ways not so different than caring for a child. In fact, it can seem like “hard labor” perhaps because when caring for a baby, we have no expectations. We know the baby WILL soil its diaper, WILL be fussy for seemingly no reason, WILL blow a raspberry while we’re feeding him peas. We don’t expect these behaviors from our parents and grandparents, though, and it can be shocking at first. But just like caring for a baby, caring for an elderly person is labor that uplifts, providing countless opportunities to be performed with dignity and excellence.
At Heart ‘n Home we care for patients young and old every day and typically it is WE who are uplifted. Our labor is one of love and respect and we reap the fruits time and again – lives affirmed, final journeys peaceful, hearts coming to rest, deaths with dignity. And while we labor to care for our patients and their families, we are mindful that their labor pales in comparison to ours.
If you are one of the 90 million Americans caring for a family member, we hope you will take time this Labor Day to relax a little and honor the American Worker, including yourself. If you need help with that, let us know. We offer resources for caregivers through literature, support groups, volunteers and volunteering, conversations, and much more. Hospice is a labor that uplifts humanity and if you could use a lift, we will be happy to provide it with painstaking excellence… every day, every time!