About This Book
Do you have a family member who requires constant care? You are not alone. This collection offers support and encouragement in its 101 stories for family caregivers of all ages, including the "sandwich" generation caring for a family member while raising their children. With stories by those on the receiving end of the care too. These stories of love, sacrifice, and lessons will inspire and uplift family members making sacrifices to make sure their loved ones are well cared for, whether in their own homes or elsewhere.
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Inspired by Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers by Joan Lunden and Amy Newmark
Being a family caregiver can be extremely rewarding, but it can also take a toll. Studies show that caregivers often experience stress, and those who provide more than 36 hours of care each week are more likely than non-caregivers to experience symptoms of depression. Here are some tips from the contributors to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers, who share stories and lessons that provide support and advice for those taking care of a loved one.
1. Prepare ahead of time. Gail Sheehy became caregiver to her husband when he was diagnosed with cancer. Like most people, Gail wasn’t prepared and had no idea how to navigate her way through the patchwork of care alternatives, insurance issues, Medicare rules and other complicated documents. From her 17 years of personal caregiving experience, Gail realized the best thing a family can do to prepare for caregiving responsibility is to talk about potential problems and opportunities ahead of time. Having a family meeting before a crisis, while everyone is calm, can eliminate many of the family issues that plague family caregivers as they make decisions for their loved ones without knowing what they would have wanted.
2. Don’t take it personally. When Joan Lunden’s mother-in-law Janey Konigsberg moved her elderly mother, Rosie, back to New York so she’d be closer to family, she was excited to have her nearby and thought their relationship would be as close and loving as it was when Janey was younger. However, as Rosie grew older and more demanding their relationship deteriorated, which is not unusual — elderly patients can sometimes lash out at the person to whom they are closest. Janey learned not to take it personally, an important lesson for family caregivers who work so hard to take care of their loved ones and then suffer hurt feelings.
3. Accept your loved one’s new reality. Actors Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry left behind their Hollywood life and moved to the quiet countryside of central Italy to live in their dream home. Not too long after the move, their new life was interrupted when Jill received a call that her mother’s husband had passed away. Jill and Michael immediately moved home to take care of Jill’s mother, Laura. After trying a senior living facility, they moved Laura into an apartment across the hall from theirs. Jill describes how her mother’s aides understood how to accept the new person that her mother had become: "They accepted her for who she was now. I was still trying to make her who she was then." Jill advises to "let go of your expectations, of what was, and embrace what is."
4. Learn to ask for help. "Doing everything on your own works great for things like pole vaulting or golf, but not so much for living life…This is the lesson I learned when I became my mom’s primary caregiver," says Cara McLauchlan in her story "The Beauty of Asking for Help." After having a complete meltdown while caring for her mother between hip surgeries, Cara reached out to every relative, friend, and fellow church member she had, and was amazed at the enthusiasm with which everyone chipped in. "By stepping out of the way and inviting others to share in the care of my mom, I received a beautiful gift." And Cara goes on to say her mother’s recovery went much better as a result of Cara letting others help her.
5. Let your loved one live in the past. When James Ashley was born he was given up for adoption. He always wanted to meet his birth mother, and at 44 he found her. They met and established a warm relationship over the years. As his birth mother grew older and could no longer live on her own, James moved her into his and his wife’s home. They had done the same years before for James’ adoptive mom, and his wife’s parents. He had found a passion in caregiving and made it his life’s pursuit, opening a senior care facility. James advises family caregivers to talk to seniors about what they want to talk about, and not to force them to engage in conversations about current events. James says that as dementia increases in the elderly, they are not comfortable being made to relate to our reality. "Even when it seems like your loved one isn’t connecting or recognizing you, it still makes a huge difference...we must let them live in their world because that is where they are comfortable."