Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Caregiving for parents: the blessing path

Here’s a great article on titled “How to care for your parents and keep your sanity.” Just the title alone got my attention. If you’ve ever cared for a parent, you’ll know that keeping your sanity is an important part of the equation. You know the days and nights that blur together, the feeling of uncontrollable laughter – or is it crying – when someone mentions the word “stress.”

The article starts with a story about the Navajo people, who believe “that caring for the elderly is a ‘blessing path’ in which the whole community should participate.

If you’ve been reading my articles you’ll know that this is something I believe strongly in. I believe that, as caregivers, we need to access all the support and resources we can so that we can care with joy. We need to tell our friends, relatives and neighbors that we’ll take them up on their vague offers to “let me know how I can help” – and ask them to help in concrete, supportive ways. We need to hire, whenever possible, trained professionals to do the tasks so that we can focus on the relationship - something we can never hire anyone to do in our stead.

Martha Beck, the article’s author, ends with this very visual description of this journey:

“Rather than a long day’s journey into night, you’ll feel yourself making a long night’s journey into day: through fear and confusion to courage and wisdom. Receive this gift, the final one your parents can offer before they take off their shoes, jump out the window and fly home.”

Caregiving is a gift. It can be one of those gifts you’re really reluctant to open (how do I say thank you – and look like I mean it – for another poorly crocheted sweater?); or it can be a gift that offers you a new way to measure the value of days and the significance of life.

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