This past weekend marked the beginning of Spring. It’s a time of change, growth and new beginnings. I personally love turning over to not just a new season, but a new month and week. My most favorite is turning over to a new day. This gives an incremental opportunity to renew my mind and face the gift before me.
For each caregiver, a new day can bring challenges and many times we are caught off guard. Your schedules are full, heart is heavy and duties are overbearing. In the midst of it all, we have to HALT and focus on 4 areas we cannot negotiate and not allow them to take us under:
With a busy schedule, meal prep and conscientious eating can move to the way side. We’re picking up fast food or in some cases, not eating at all. At the height of Catherine’s medical challenges, my mother made frequent trips to Texas to support us. She would also make extra healthy meals to freeze to carry us for weeks. This was great support to me as a caregiver. Take the time to plan and prepare healthy meals. Don’t overthink this but decide to select nutrient rich foods that will give you energy and keep you satisfied.
When you’re caring for a loved one, frustration can set in at any time. You may deal with ineffective care, mounting medical expenses or challenges with a diagnosis. Sometimes you are upset because you find yourself in a caregiving scenario you really resent. There were times I was frustrated with the numerous appointments or requirements to support Catherine’s care. The balance of life shifted and the constant adjustments were overwhelming. It was in these times that I would literally and figuratively run to “my source” in the word. I often meditate on Romans 12:2 – And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. You have to find a place and a time to release.
Loneliness is the most surprising part of being a caregiver. Many times you are in the presence of medical professionals, home healthcare, therapists, specialists, etc. Yet you still feel alone. I could have 3-5 appointments for Catherine a day and speak with numerous people and feel as if I haven’t felt the real presence of anyone during that day. Sometimes the taste of loneliness could last for many days. This is when you need to have people around you that pour into in a unique way. I heard an acceptance speech from an awards show where the winner counseled the audience to “surround yourself with people whose eyes light up when you walk in the room.” You know this when you see it. I see this in the eyes of my mom and mother-in-law when they see or speak to Catherine and Christina. Their whole world lights up and I must say they also light up for me!
Exhaustion is the heaviest of them all and is a real hurdle when there are so many matters that need your specific attention. The mental and physical fatigue is a fog that can zap the energy right out of your soul. During one of Merle’s business trips, Catherine had an acute medical episode. I recall a 5 day, 18 hour per day stretch of round the clock care with limited sleep. I wanted to collapse but couldn’t because Catherine needed consistent monitoring. This is when you call in the cavalry. Reach out to a friend, family member, church member or someone to give you respite. There are services available to caregivers to give them the much needed reprieve. We simply have to inquire and seek them out.
During this new season, I want to invite my collective caregivers to put a HALT to encounters that can take you down. Caregiving is a marathon and not a sprint. Remember to pace yourselves and get the support you need along the way to make it to the finish line.