respite

The tethered caregiver

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Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios
Painting courtesy of Mary Riesche Studios

Imagine that you are the primary family caregiver for a loved one with dementia in your home.  You have no time to yourself while in the house so how can you possibly find the time to leave your loved one alone to complete some pressing errands?

But you do leave the house and you do leave your loved one alone at home, because you haven’t figured out how to get someone else to do those errands for you, or you don’t know how to secure someone else to watch your loved one while you do the errands.  I favor the latter option because a 24/7 caregiver absolutely must get out of the house and feed her soul while crossing items off her To Do list.

I went to Staples office supply store yesterday to pick up three items for my writing quest: a new thumb drive that I can trust to store my magnificent masterpiece of a manuscript; a new mouse pad because my right wrist and hand have worn out the previous one; and a ream of lined filler paper for taking notes and drafting new ideas.

Because it is currently back-to-school shopping time, Staples was crazy-busy yesterday.  The checkout line was very long and directly behind me was a young mother with a shopping cart filled with supplies for her two school-aged children.  An older woman with two items asked if she could please go ahead of her because she had a sick husband at home; the young mother graciously agreed to let her do so.  When it was my turn at the register, I turned to the older woman and asked her to go ahead of me to which she responded, “Oh thank you so much, you see I have a situation at home and I need to get back quickly.”

Have any of you been there – done that?

Do you know someone who has?

The following advice goes to those of you who know someone in a similar predicament as the woman at the Staples store: be the respite that person needs.  Don’t wait for them to ask for help – they won’t ask you; you must make the first move.  Put yourself in that someone’s shoes and imagine racing through your errands, all the while freaking out wondering what’s going on in the house while you’re away: the person with dementia wandering away from the house or falling down in or around the house, turning on the stove or running the water without turning either off, or letting someone inside the house who should not be inside the house.

Now it’s your turn: imagine the worst-case scenario and apply it to this situation.

Now do something about it.

Other articles to inspire you:

Solo Caregiving; Helping an Alzheimer’s Caregiver; Caregiving: Grief, Guilt, Exhaustion, and Discrimination

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Finding respite in the 21st century

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Dissecting disconnection: Why I’m taking the week off tech.

Monica Guzman, Seattle Times writer and blogger, is going off the technical grid for a week – thus the article attached above wherein she analyzes our habits and impulses when it comes to us feeling the need to be instantaneously on top of matters.  She’s not disconnecting from all technologies – she intends to watch television and might use a real camera – but she’s staying away from “the ones that know me.”

Ah, respite – what a delightful concept.  Lots of us Baby Boomers equate respite to receiving some sort of relief from our caregiving tasks.  For example, we might be taking care of a parent, sibling, partner, or spouse and we look for every opportunity for a reprieve from our caregiving chores – or at least we should be.  Please see my article Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first.

Darth Gimp Cordless Phone
Cordless Phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Respite, however, also relates to resisting the compulsion to send someone a Happy Birthday greeting by sending an e-mail, or going to the honoree’s Facebook page, or sending a Tweet on the person’s Twitter feed – and instead, deciding to call that person for a conversation that lasts longer than it takes to type a 140 character greeting.  OMG, MIK?  (Oh my god, am I kidding?)

No – I’m serious.  I could make it harder on you – and myself – by suggesting that we send a birthday card that would require us to purchase, write, post, and drop the card through the slot of a postal box.  I think that would be a great idea, mind you, but that’s not what I’m proposing.

Rejoice in the fact that Facebook reminded you of that person’s birthday.  (I know that you received sufficient notice not to miss that person’s birthday because truth be told – that’s how I remember many of my acquaintances’ birthdays each year.)  But please resist the urge to send an instantaneous electronic greeting.  Think of yourself – I know you can – and think of what it feels like to receive fun mail, such as a birthday card, or simply a “there’s no reason for this card” card.  You liked that feeling – didn’t you?  Now I want you to also think about how it feels when someone calls you to personally wish you happiness – just you and the person that called you.  That’s a one-on-one attention connection.

Drop a note, make a call, but leave the 140 characters for some other important message, like:

I had a glazed doughnut and a cup of coffee for breakfast then washed my hair and can’t do a thing with it! Isn’t that just the worst thing ever?

Go ahead and count – there’s 140 characters there.