Pastry, Prayers, and a Persistent Policeman: Tools from my Caregiving Survival Kit

September 20, 2016

At 5am on the day of my mother’s hospital discharge, I slung myself out of bed, chugged a mug of coffee, and with the fortitude of Indiana Jones, excavated enough energy to organize Mom’s room, buy a bouquet of yellow roses, and stock her preferred brand of marmalade, along with a few Chunky candy bars for Yours Truly. (When the going gets tough, the tough get chocolate.

It took a few days for Mom and me to recover from our “hospital hangover” which, unfortunately, was not due to IVs full of tequila, but rather a lack of sleep and a head-spinning amount of medical dialogue with more doctors than the cast of Grey’s Anatomy.

Fast forward to today. Here I am, in my comfy drawstring pants that transition beautifully from grocery store to couch to sofa bed and back again. My hair is pulled up by a chip clip, and my face is devoid of makeup unless you count the glitter that migrated there from a birthday card I bought two weeks ago.

Though I’m still a relative newbie on the caregiving scene, I’ve realized that every caregiver needs a toolbox. Here’s what’s in mine.

Cannoli:

An Italian treat second only to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, this impeccable pastry is Mom’s and my favorite indulgence. Hooah!

Columbo:

Thank goodness for this determined detective and his trusty trench coat. Mom and I have always enjoyed this cluedunnit, which swaddles us in thecomfort of nostalgia.

A Good Cry:

Let it out. For me, the surge of tears comes at unexpected moments, but I go with it. Plus, I’m convinced it helps me shed water weight.

ASK FOR THINGS:

Yes, I’m writing that in all caps b/c caregivers tend to take on the whole enchilada! People want to help, but you must be specific. Ask for assistance running errands, request a visit so you can take a break, and let friends and family bring prepared meals. (Yes, that includes a whole enchilada!)

Remember your friends:

Return calls, ask them about their lives and continue to nurture those relationships.

Walk. Ride a bike. Do something physical.

We are made to move. Full disclosure: I come from a long line of non-movers. My family tree is an escalator. But even I know that some type of exercise will improve mood and relieve stress.

Prayer:

Each night, Mom and I hold hands and say a prayer. Sometimes, it’s a traditional recitation, which not only brings solace, but also engages Mom’s memory. Other times, we freestyle and pray for our loved ones’ health and happiness and that Family Feud and Wheel of Fortune never go off the air.

A creative outlet:

Take pictures, keep a journal, get crafty. For me, photography provides joy and a healthy distraction. Find your zenergy and go for it.

My list of caregiver necessities continues to grow and I’ll continue to share it with you. But right now, Mom and I are settling in for the afternoon. Amazon just delivered 2 more Columbo episodes, and friends are on their way over with a box of Cannoli.

 

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