I am writing you from the hospital at the bedside of my 89 year old father. He has had a rollercoaster of a ride over the past month and us along with him. This has been a journey to the end of life and back again, as he is doing better, for which I am grateful!
In this same realm I met with other caregivers and they shared with me their intense stress, exhaustion and grieving. The emotions they shared with me were hard to comprehend. One woman was the caregiver for both parents through death and the other currently at the bedside of her husband of 35 years who has been in home hospice for several months.
I really had no concept of what this meant and only now have a glimpse of the gravity based on my last two weeks caring for my own father in a very fragile state. For myself, I first am relieved that my dad was with me when he became ill. He had gotten out of the hospital 2 days before he drove himself to the Philly airport and flew down here. The first week he was doing better each day and we had him walking to the St. Simons Island pier. Then he missed his morning dose of medications, became very short of breath and I hospitalized him. This reinforced for me how fragile this tough ex-Navy man has really become.
It also emphasized how quickly sleep deprivation and worry take a toll on our body, emotions and spirit.
I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to other caregivers and first send you blessings and prayers for your role and this immense responsibility.
In the meantime, as a message to caregivers, permission and a plea for you to find a balance and take care of yourself, guiltlessly. You know when you are on board an airplane, the stewardess says “Put your oxygen mask on first, then put it on your little loved one.”
Caregivers are under intense chronic stress. Often it is physical, emotional, mental, financial and spiritual.
I hope these recommendations will be supportive to you or someone you love.
First: Call in the troops. Ask for help. This may be very hard to do but do it. Maybe it’s for a few hours a day or week. Ask your church community for help or volunteers. YOU TIME is very important. Maybe it’s an escape time on a drive or long walk or long bath. Or listening to music in your car (as long as it’s not in your garage with door closed and engine on!)
Second: Sleep. Still a number one therapy. Please allow yourself this time.
Third: Support your adrenals. Really this is our entire hormonal axis we must support. When we are pushed to our physical and mental limits due to lack of sleep, worry and stress our hormone network moves into a survival mode. This can lead us to experience anxiety, depression, aches and pains, intense fatigue or hyperactivity, and resentment.
Something to remember: Resentment is lack of self care.
Fourth: Supplements for adrenal support:
A note about emotional pain: You can have the perfect diet, the perfect exercise schedule and do everything possible to create recovery; but if you have lingering unresolved emotional conflicts, you can remain or become very sick. Aristotle said:
“The soul suffers when the body is diseased or traumatized, while the body suffers when the soul is ailing.”
You’ve heard the phrase: “You are what you eat.” Well it should be added that “You are also a product of how you address your life’s conflicts.” Your physical health is a direct manifestation of the various conflicts you’ve faced throughout your lifetime, along with your reaction to them. Therefore, set intentions to see life’s negative experiences as positive growth for your life and a part of your ultimate being.
Realize that along life’s path, you will meet resistance. Embrace this resistance as opportunity for self growth. Realize that God never wastes a hurt. Remember that positive thoughts and actions create happier people and HAPPY PEOPLE are HEALTHY PEOPLE!