10 Commandments of Caregiving

  1. Find Compassion: Walk a mile in your caree’s shoes
  2. Be Patient: It’s is a positive side-effect of compassion
  3. Stay Positive: The 80/20 rule works here, and sometimes in reverse
  4. Pray. A Lot: To whatever power greater than you propelling you through this wild ride
  5. Ditch the Drama: No one wants to hear about a self-sacrificing martyr, let alone be one
  6. Give & Ye Shall Receive: Being of service isn’t selfish
  7. Treat yourself: Even a half-hour away with a latte is a well-deserved reward
  8. Rest Up: Manadatory for both caregiver and caree
  9. Love Thyself: Daily affirmations remind us of our purpose, value and why we do this
  10. Learn & Share: As you’ve been helped by other caregivers, so shall your wisdom help them

Be gentle. Give freely. Stay real. Because we’re all doing the best we can with situations we’ve never been through before.

Dive In!

On a trail run this week, I encountered two women blocking the narrow single-track path. “There’s a rattlesnake up ahead,” one whispered. “Coiled and ready to strike.”

Snakes on an Arizona trail aren’t unusual. But normally there’s no advance warning. I leap over them, the surge of adrenaline fueling me forward.

It’s not always like this.

My caregiving life involves planning: appointments, activities, lunch dates. But as a writer, in the increasing moments when I release outcomes to the Universe with all the magic of a child blowing bubbles in the wind, I can write fearlessly, submitting stories formerly challenged by self-doubt; joining a writing class that before had seemed an unattainable goal; summoning the courage to participate in a reading of my work.

A few years ago, my teenage nieces dared me to jump off the ferry pier on the island where my father lives. It was a long drop from wharf to water, the cold Atlantic churning below. Unthinking, I dove in.

Sometimes, life is like this.

Love/Hate Relationship

Yesterday, we went for a walk, my mother and I. We had just finished lunch in the main dining room of the senior home, one of her favorite things to do.

“This is a horrible place,” my mother says, the chocolate cake from moments ago long forgotten. “You can’t imagine what happens here.”

I’ve heard this almost as many times as I’ve heard what a wonderful place it is. And I’ve learned over the years to nod, smile and redirect when she experiences the extreme emotions of Alzheimer’s.

“Look at the beautiful marigold bush!” I point to the purple sage on the xeriscaped lawn. These days, we call most flowers “marigolds,” regardless of hue. The familiar memory erases her distress as swiftly as she shifts between reality and dementia.

Today, when I visit, the residents are listing famous heroes on the white board. We take a walk, my mother and I. She picks a few pink oleanders.

“What beautiful marigolds!” she says. “I love this place!”

When we return, we begin a new white board game with her friends, listing all the things they love about living here.

“Chocolate cake!” my mother yells out. “We haven’t had that in years!”