ARTICLES / General /
Family Caregiving: Sharing the Work /
By Rita L. Calderon
Yet there’s a positive flipside: the
caregiver’s journey can be rewarding and
meaningful, enriching our spiritual and
emotional growth. My own mother gets more
beautiful to me, at 89 with Alzheimer’s.
It’s a beauty that, like her gait, moves out
very slowly and furtively from deep inside, its
voice teetering, yet I hear its essence loud and
clear. We can only experience the more positive
side of caregiving if we do it with thought and
planning. So plan now: find a quiet
time and space, turn off the phones and TV, turn
on nice music, breathe deeply and start a list.
Prioritize Work. List
all the tasks you do for them and all that
remain to be done, from laundry to cooking to
medical appointments to financial planning to
calling nursing homes to sitting catatonic
staring at the TV together. Imagine the
positive: who can you visualize doing what?
Prepare to delegate.
Family. Look at each family member
(including those you’d rather not). Some
obstacles are fixable, some not—geographic
distance, emotional distance, downright
loathing. The brother who breezes in once
a year – the sister who’s always said “No” to
everything. Some family members jump right in
to help; some families actually grow closer from
the crisis. Caregivers without siblings
must cast their nets wider. Some
caregivers are spouses who need help themselves,
but are too proud to ask. Turn the page on
the past: new chapter. Write or call, but
find a way to state nicely and firmly that
things have changed. Be ready to discuss
#1 above – who can do what. Remember, this
is interactive; discuss the issues fairly,
considering their situation and asking them to
Human Resources: Friends
and neighbors. I was totally overwhelmed
with caregiver stress. My mother has
Alzheimer’s and had recent surgery. The
family was small, my mother isolated. One
day, an old friend asked, “Can I come see your
mom?” I stared blankly just like the executive
talking about her husband. Mother was
behaving oddly and looking rather strange.
But the visit was a godsend; don’t underestimate
the importance of moral support. Friends
and neighbors can be a lifeline.
- Community Resources.
Check out non-profit organizations and municipal
agencies appropriate for the situation, such as
the Department for the Aging, the American
Alzheimer’s Foundation, Alzheimer’s Association,
Gay Men’s Health Crisis, American Heart
Association, Cancer Care, etc. Among
services offered are informational newsletters,
educational forums, telephone hotlines, support
groups and teleconferences.