By the Seat of Our Pants

respecy

One of the most frustrating parts of being a Caregiver is that there are no instruction booklets for the most important moments we experience with the people we’re caring for. Those moments usually come upon us without warning. Suddenly one morning your elderly father (for example) is in a terrible mood. Nothing you do to make him more comfortable satisfies him. You check the usual things first; making sure he’s eaten enough, taken his pills and has water, pillows are in all the right places, his favorite TV program is on and his ear piece is working. Still he’s cranky or sad. He can’t really tell you what’s wrong. You ask questions and often get an “I don’t know” that’s accompanied by tears. Your practical mind wants to find a quick practical solution. If this is mental/emotional there is no quick answer or even a right one.

This is often a sign that there’s a lot going on mentally for him. We who are healthy and self-sufficient can’t possibly know what it’s like to be dependent on someone else for everything that goes on in our lives. I’m talking about dependent adults here, people who used to be in our position, taking care of others. They’re in the latter years of their lives and they know it. It is most likely an intense, often frightening time. Nothing is in their control and they can’t do a thing about it. How frustrating. Some have dementia, but not usually enough to keep them from having fears of the unknown. They think often of dying and don’t want to leave the people they love. I’ve heard that it occurs, but I’ve yet to meet someone who is near death that is ready to go. And I’ve lost five loved ones over the last eight years. They all struggled to stay alive as long as possible. Imagine the stress that is going on in ones body. Of course, it’s going to come out in any way it can find, as it should. And we need to be respectful and allow it to be released without trying to stifle it.

Many elderly people who are physically very ill still have minds that function as well as most younger people. My husband, my mother and my sister-in-law had very clear minds, aside from episodes caused by medications, till the day they died. My father, who had Parkinson’s, had some dementia for several years before his speech became so bad that it was almost impossible for him to tell us what he wanted to say. Yet, I could tell that his mind was working quite well in some ways because he would be trying to discuss complex or delicate issues. Lucidity would come and go, but he would amaze me with his judgement at times. My point is, we should never discount the mental acuity of people just because they are elderly and sick. They’ve lived longer than we have and they know more than we do about some things.

We need to give them space and time, too. Above all we need to be patient. Here’s where our intuition comes in, maybe we need to ask a few questions. If we’re careful enough we could ask questions that would help us understand if there were unfinished issues that are causing stress and need to be addressed in order to allow peace to take it’s place. I wanted my husband to be able to let go because he was suffering so much holding onto life. It was hard to see him so stressful. I wanted to know if there was something I could do to help him relax so I asked questions. Also, I asked if there were any things he felt were unresolved or that he wanted to tell me. I assured him there was nothing he could tell me that I couldn’t handle. I didn’t tell him why I was asking, just took advantage of an opportunity that seemed right. I, also, went down the line of all the people he was close to; his children, brother and so on. I gave him the opportunity to decide that he was good with everyone around him, or not. Your knowledge of the person you care for will help you know what might be a haunting issue, maybe you can bring it into the light, and therefore, relieve stress.

But, don’t press. Maybe they just need peace. Is their environment peaceful? If not, is there something you could do to fix that? Respect and peace seem most important here.

Until soon, I wish you love and harmony.

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