Monday, March 6, 2017

Care For the Giver

I lay awake at four in the morning, totally unable to find that cozy spot once again or to stop the thoughts which pummel me from all sides. Will Mom be alright today? Will she eat and take her pills? What if she missteps and takes a fall? Is her health okay?

On the days I am with her, I try to give her my all. We begin with a scrumptious breakfast, bacon, french toast and coffee. I do my best Lumiere impression from "Beauty and the Beast" for her to "Be My Guest" as I serve her. I love to make Mom laugh, and it's no easy task always thinking up a barrage of chatter so she won't go down any of the paths of depression. Dementia is enough without the added sadness she sometimes carries.

I glance around for tasks which need done; wanting to be of help to my brother who is her nighttime caregiver. He does so much, and I want to make life a little bit easier for him too. I'll begin the wash, take care of the cats, do a light dusting, help Mom to dress or heaven forbid, take a shower. For this has not been easy and on the days I can coax her, I end up getting almost as wet as she does. I know she feels badly. It can't be easy having your daughter insist you do something that has become almost scary. For the tub isn't easy to maneuver with her bad leg, and getting her onto her shower seat takes patience and a little muscle as well.

Some days I take Mom for a drive to a favorite spot near a lovely creek and small stone bridge, knowing she and Dad loved to drive there each week. We may even grab a little food while we are out, but taking a walker in and out of the car and making sure she doesn't fall, gives every trip a little added stress.

 I orchestrate all her doctor, dental, eye and foot appointments like a well-oiled machine, seeing that she is cared for. And getting her to them is another feat in itself.

Once she is situated back home, I make sure that Mom has taken her late afternoon pills; or days when I am not there, try talking her into taking them on the other end of the phone. It's exhausting, these simple tasks, and sometimes as part caregiver, I want to vent and scream and even run away.

My friend Goldie reminded me that we must care for ourselves. We are no good to anyone if we don't first take time to do something nice for us. As another of my friends, Paula mentioned the other day, if  you were traveling on a plane and in an emergency the oxygen masks came down before you, you would first put the mask onto your own face so that you'd have enough breath to take care of your loved ones around you. We cannot help someone else if we can't breathe.We cannot thrive without oxygen, and that's what the caregiver needs; sometimes one small breath at a time.

It's been easy to fall into a trap recently--an endless pit of despair at times. Poor me, why me, etc, etc. But when I actually listened to these two remarkable friends, my spirits lifted and the shackles of depression began to abate. Some people find a little solace in having their nails or hair done, or purchasing a fun new outfit. Others enjoy a good workout at a local gym. There are those who take in a movie with a good friend, or share a cup of coffee with another. A long, hot bath, good music, all great for the caregiver. And some of these are easily accomplished.

I got to thinking: Hmm, I'm not one to buy clothes, spend money on my nails, or heaven forbid, purchase a membership to a gym. (Well, at least not yet anyway.) But there is something I took the time to learn about and indulge a little in. My skincare.

I've always been told I do not look my fifty plus years. My father's family had great Italian skin, and Dad looked way younger than his eighty years. I'd begun to notice some under eye baggage; a few lines and darkening that wasn't there a short time ago. And those darn marionette lines--what the heck are they anyway? Frown lines--well, I can guess what those are from.

Friend Paula who I mentioned above is a skin care advocate. I'm fortunate enough to work with her at my job. She has gotten into a company called Nerium, and I listened as she told some of our patients about the products that are slated to turn back the hands of time. Okay, I thought, let's give it a whirl. For I don't indulge in other spending, why not on my skin then?

Can I mention that it was love at first pump? The wonderful, enriching lotion sucked into my crevices and I saw results that were almost instantaneous. And over time, I see better and better looking skin. It's to the point that my husband noticed something "different" about me, and others have remarked as well.

I took in a movie the other day also. And I've been taking time to read good books, listen to music I enjoy, and on occasion, even paint my nails with glitzy, fun colors. Yes, it's true--we must caregive ourselves a bit from time to time or we lose a little of who we are and all that we can do for others.

So, buy the new shirt, read that book, indulge in the dark chocolate you've been wanting. Call a friend and vent. Then vent some more. Laugh at a funny movie, or be inspired by a touching one. Do something for you! It makes the spirits soar and helps us to be a much-improved caregiver. Remember to breathe.

Below you will find my friend Paula's site for the amazing Nerium products. Oh, and while you're at it, consider becoming a partner for the company, those of you who may need an extra income or who enjoy working from home. But one thing I know, you will adore the results!


  1. I could almost cry reading your post Karen. The caregiver role is hard. Thank you for the reminder to be good to ourselves. My husband treated me to a one hour pedicure before my vacation. It was awesome.

    1. That's wonderful, Jo! I hope you are having the time of your life on that trip! Tell Mom I said a warm hello. And thank you for commenting!