Dealing with Bad Days

Some days it feels as if there’s nothing you can do. Your loved one is having a difficult day and you feel helpless to make it better. Sometimes it’s bad enough that it’s an hour by hour, or even a minute by minute game of waiting for time to pass and things to improve. So, what do you do then?

For me, there are a few things which help when things get rough. Talking it out, praying, and just being there for my grandmother give me a sense that I’m not alone in the struggle and that there are positive steps I can take. Maybe I can’t fix her, but I can do the next right thing, and that’s enough.

Having a network of people to call is crucial. Caregiving is isolating at best, and if it’s a 24-hour-a-day deal, it’s even worse. Reaching out to others can change my attitude in a matter of minutes. Sometimes talking to someone who’s been there, like my husband or another caregiver, allows me to get a fresh perspective on the situation. Sometimes talking to someone who is willing to just chat about the weather provides a much needed breather from obsessing about O2 counts, blood pressure, and medication schedules. As awesome as the right hospice is, you need to find people who aren’t in your trench, even if they are in trenches of their own.

I firmly believe in the power of prayer. Raised in a minister’s family, I have a personal relationship with God. If you have a different higher power, or none at all, still look for something greater than you on which to rely. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Sometimes what my grandmother needs most is a hug, or a few minutes of my time. Being physically present can get exhausting, and it means I don’t accomplish much else, but on the bad days, it makes all the difference. I have seen her go from major anxiety to a state of calm over the course of a hug. Talking to her helps her ratchet down her stress level. I still give medication when she needs it, but trying the simpler methods first helps reduce her dependence on the medicines and lengthens the period for which they will still be effective.

So what if nothing helps, and you’re both in a bad place? That does happen. I try to remember that a day lasts only twenty-four hours, and the morning will likely bring a change. It might be better, or it might be worse, but it will almost certainly be different. Maybe we both take a nap. Maybe we just watch TV, work on a craft project, or listen to audio books.

Reevaluating your expectations may also help. As long as we make it through the day, everyone gets their medicines, and no one dies, it’s been a good day, in our rather warped little perspective. Even if we didn’t shower, get dressed, or have a balanced diet, we did our best, and that’s what matters.

I hope some of this helps. Remember that you are not alone.

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The Positive Side of Caregiving

Sure, caring for elderly relatives is a lot of work. It’s being on call 24/7, managing health, safety and mobility needs, and it seriously cuts into your personal life. That being said, the benefits massively outweigh the drawbacks, at least for me.

Most days, I show up to work in my pajamas. Unless we are leaving the house, I can stay that way all day, if I so choose. 🙂

Some days the only chores I accomplish are laundry and cooking, but on good days, I can clean my house, do paperwork, schedule appointments, catch up on long-delayed projects, and work online between meals, medications, snacks, and bathroom runs.

I am finally able to put into practice some ideas I have wanted to try for years, from making homemade laundry soap to hanging laundry out to dry.

I learn new skills and techniques every week, from taking a manual blood pressure to how to give a bed bath. Compulsively inquisitive as I tend to be, this is great.

I have the opportunity to sit down and learn from a woman who has been there and done it all for more than ninety years. She is a treasure trove of wisdom, humor, and history.

Most importantly, though, I have the opportunity to give back to a woman who helped to raise me and who did all these same things for me, thirty-some years ago.

If you are a caregiver, or you expect to be one someday, I would love your perspective. The more we can learn from each other, the easier this becomes.

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