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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 247 - Preparing For Caregiving

We never know when we're going to become a caregiver - or a patient, for that matter.

Usually you'd think of preparation as a follow-on to 'getting the bad news', when an illness is diagnosed. But that's not really the best way to go, because a) you're on the clock, and b) emotions are inevitably going to get in the way and make it harder.

You can make it easier (in each case) through planning ahead, before the crisis is on the horizon...but how does one justify preparing for something that may or may not happen...and if it does, may be years in the future?

Simple. By creating good habits now, habits that will benefit your life in normal times.

Here are a few...

  • Stay in shape - caregiving (or being sick) is awfully hard on the body, and the higher your fitness level, the more physical resources you have. Even if you have to set aside your workout routine, you'll be starting from a better place; your body will have developed a higher metabolism, and you'll have more energy even though you can't exercise as you might want to.
  • Organize small things - time will be of the essence, and you'll never have enough as a caregiver, so why not save some 'good time' now by developing efficient habits? Something like laying out your clothes in the evening, rather than having to decide what to wear with a leave-for-work deadline takes a lot of time-pressure away...and you'll use that time more efficiently.
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude for small things - when you're a caregiver an undisturbed cup of coffee is a true blessing, but many caregivers see it as something 'taken away' from what the experience might have been, rather than a gift of a moment's peace. Learn to savour those small things.
  • Get comfortable with discomfort - caregiving is nothing if not uncomfortable - both physically and mentally. You can toughen yourself up by intentionally being a bit less than comfortable...dress just a bit too lightly for cold, for example, or don't forego an exercise session because you'retired. These are small things, but they will, over time, develop in you a tolerance for discomfort...and that will increase your capacity for compassion, because you will not have to be so focused on how you're feeling.
  • Cultivate friendships - friends are important through all stages of life, but especially so when you're a caregiver, because they are the only people, generally, who can give the respite you need and the feedback you may not always want to hear. They can be far better than family. And you can't develop 'instant friends'; usually the ones who are with you at the beginning of the caregiving journey are all you're going to have.
  • Find a home church - having a rpititual home is a vital part of keeping yourself (as caregiver or patient) on an even keel. It doesn't have to be perfect; no church is. You just have to know that it'll be there for you, as long as you're a prt of the faith community. The church relationship is like a friendship; it takes time to grow into community, and you generally can't adopt one as a band-aid in a crisis.
What do you think? Are these valid points? what else would you add?

I have another blog, "Starting The Day With Grace". The focus is a grace quote from someone you might not expect (like, say Mick Jagger) and a short commentary. I hope you'll join me.

Marley update...he's probably going to be moved to a sanctuary, and Bay County will revise their 'dangerous dog' codes.


He's up over 200,000 signatures, but PLEASE keep the pressure on. If you haven't signed, please do! Please click o his name in the paragraph below.

If you have a moment, I'd like to ask you to visit Change.org to consider a petition to free a 'death row dog' who has been separated from his family for ten months over a misunderstanding. Marley was saved from Afghanistan by a US serviceman; please help make sure this story doesn't end in needless tragedy! Marley's gotten a lot of support...but he still needs our help.

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  1. “We never know…” - that is a full post right there. Life is so full of surprises that we should never be surprised by it. Yet we are. Thanks for reminding us to create good habits in the “normal” times that can help sustain us in the abnormal times. May you and Barbara have a blessed Christmas, Andrew!

    1. Lisa, yes...we never should be surprised, but the nature of life in a fallen world IS the unexpected.

      We wish a wonderful Christmas to you and yours!

  2. Very good. These are all helpful and strengthening. It's amazing what a determined effort will accomplish. Thank you, Andrew.

    1. Norma, thank you. I have found, and am daily re-learning, that determination is the key to practical perseverance. And it's not an easy key to turn.

      Thank you so much for being here, my friend!

  3. If I could add anything it would be to not be afraid to ask for help, and don't be so proud that you cannot accept that help, no matter how small. My husband is permanently in a nursing home (since April 2015), but I was (and technically still am) his caregiver almost from the beginning moment of our marriage. But we finally had to face the fact that the progression of of his worsening medical issues were directly affecting my own. Not once did anyone EVER offer to help me... but by the same token, I did not once EVER ask for help. We have relied on God continuously and whole-heartedly. Maybe people thought I was fine handling things every second of every hour of every day, I don't know. But I can look back now and see many times I should have at least asked for help. Thank you for this post, Andrew – I'm certain it will help someone someday. Blessings to you!

    1. Diana, thank you so much for sharing this! I know it must ahve been hard, but you've added so very much to the conversation, and I am extremely grateful.

      I'm so glad you're here...and you and your husband are in my prayers.

  4. Practice accepting less-than-perfect, or accept that you cannot do EVERYTHING. :) Good list, Andrew, and good advice. It made me smile to think of practicing slight discomforts!

    1. Carol, yes, that's right - thank you for these excellent additions to the conversation! Truly, perfection is a false idol...as is the desire to do it all.

      Thanks so much for being here!