In this article I will discuss:
- How to hold it all together
- Building your Board of Directors
- How to handle tough decisions
- Family Drama
- Finding Peace in Uncertainty
Life can be a roller coaster and is not always going to be easy. I am thirty-nine and never expected to be in a position where I would have to take care of my mom at this age. I think that if you are reading this you may be in the same position. My mom is sixty and within months her health decreased so much. Later we found out the whole time she was suffering from pancreatic cancer.
This was devastating news and all I wanted to do was anything I could to help her fight this monster to get better. This all feels like a dream but rather than get sad and depressed, I wanted to write an article to help other moms. The hardest part is taking care of myself while balancing the caretaker role, wife, mom, and all my other titles.
Self-care is a priority. Let me say it again, you have to take care of yourself if you ever plan to take care of someone else. For more about self-care, make sure you read my article about “self-care”. —> 16 Must Try Tips To Build Your Self-Care Routine in 2020
When someone starts getting sick, they typically have lots of doctor appointments. In my mom’s case, she had many at different locations. It is even harder if your loved one is far away. My mom lives about 40 minutes away which is not far but still, it does not feel like she lives close enough. This meant lots of driving, time away from my family, and responsibilities.
Your first instinct may be to take your family member to every appointment because you want to be there and understand what is going on. Let me tell you that this is not going to keep you healthy and only going to wear you down. Everyone should have people they can reach out to when these circumstances arise.
Here is how I look at this situation. A company has a Board of Directors that is responsible for making important decisions for the company. Each member plays a different but equally important part.
How you can build your own Board of Directors.
There is no reason why an individual cannot have a Board of Directors! This is a team that you assemble to help you and your loved one carry the load. Listen to me, you cannot do this alone!
A Board of Directors can include family, friends, health care workers, or hired help. Here is how you can structure your board of directors.
For me, this area consists of a couple of members. Doctor appointments can be exhausting, people typically have to take time off work, and at times can happen multiple times a week.
For families living in the same household, chores should be divided out. A clean and organized house will reduce stress. If your sick family lives by themselves, appoint a couple of people to come each week to tidy up their home, clean the refrigerator, clean laundry, etc.
I typically do my grocery shopping online through grocery pickup. Before placing my order I would reach out to my mom and get her grocery order. This helps so much because let’s face it going to the grocery store sucks!
If your loved one has a yard, someone has to be hired or volunteer to keep up on the maintenance. This could be teenagers that need money or a group that helps on the weekend.
Depending on the severity of the illness, your loved one may need help doing some exercises. Muscles can atrophy if they are just sitting on the couch so it is important to help them by showing them simple exercises. I suggest looking at Pinterest and YouTube videos.
Some helpful exercises include stretching, lifting weights on the couch, chair yoga, balancing with a sturdy item (e.g, holding on the couch and balancing on one leg).
Everyone will need a trusted person to handle all the financials. This includes regular bills that need to be paid on time, medical bills, tax returns, and other financial priorities.
Another part of financials includes having a Living Will, Power of Attorney (POA) for medical and property. These are really important so you know what needs to happen with their estate if they do pass away. The POA can help them pay bills and sign other documents when times are tough.
My mom lives by herself but my brother still uses her vehicle since she is not driving. Your family member may be driving or not, in any case, you need to appoint someone to keep up on maintenance. If the vehicle is not in use, consider selling or driving it around to avoid it sitting and collecting dust.
This is a lot of stuff to accomplish and trying to support it by yourself will only make you sick, depressed, or unable to care for your own life. Because as much as we want to be there, we cannot support and care for someone if we are not doing the same for ourselves.
Having Tough Conversations
Along the way, you are bound to have tough conversations. Right now the Coronavirus is top of mind and the CDC has recommended that we all social distance and limit exposure to larger groups so we can stop the spread. With my mom being on a Chemotherapy treatment plan, I am very worried about her health. I have tried to tell her that she needs to limit the number of people that come in and out of her home.
What caregivers need to understand is that we can tell our loved ones what is best but we cannot dictate every part of their life.
It is hard seeing all these people come and go out of my mom’s house and not realize their impact. All it takes is one person to give her the COVID-19 and it could have a major impact on her health or even kill her.
I have also recommended that she move in with me or her brother. I can’t even imagine trying to give up my home and life I built due to an illness. However, when you see them struggling to do basic things like cook, clean, or falling into depression you only want the best for them. In my opinion, my mom living with someone is the best environment for her at this time but she does have a say.
No matter what I want, I can talk about it with my mom but she has the ultimate decision. I think it is important to remember you can only help not force someone to take action until they are ready.
I think for anyone making such decisions it takes time to process what is going on. Early on we had the conversation about selling her homes. She was not in that place when we first discussed it but eventually, she realized that it was the best decision.
If I had to provide any advice if you are faced with this situation is never to pressure anyone. Give your loved one time to process everything and let them make their own decisions.
Oh the Lord knows how much family drama I have and trying to avoid it when trying to take care of my mom is hard. Here’s the story my brother has never been able to support himself and my mom has been there to provide for him. He lives in a house she pays for, drives her car, spends her money on his cigarettes, and other unnecessary items.
I have no control over this and as much as it angers and saddens me that my brother does not see what he is doing to his mom, there is nothing I can do.
Family drama tips:
- If you find yourself getting pissed off, walk away. Getting into an argument and upsetting your ill family member is only going to have a negative impact.
- Set schedules/boundaries so you know you will not interact with the person you have drama with.
- Bring a friend or partner that can help keep you calm in the event of an uprising.
- If you do need to address the situation, keep a calm and even tone voice. Do not yell or make sarcastic comments that would lead to more drama that is necessary.
- Think back on situations and how they escalated. Can you pinpoint the triggers? Make a mental note and stay away from the triggers that have escalated past situations.
- Keep an open mind. Listen to what everyone has to say and make sure you process what has been said before spewing words from your mouth.
The goal is to ensure you remove as much stress from your life as possible during this time. I still have to take care of my family and myself. I know when I have not had enough self-care because I will have a thyroid flare-up. For me, this looks like fatigue, pain, fast heart rate, and just feeling crappy all around. I am just coming out of one right now and I am trying my best to keep it that way.
Just remember moms that your first priority is always your family and then the ill loved one you are caring for. This is why building a Board of Directors is so very important because they can help when you cannot be there.
Finding Peace in Uncertainty
Life is not ever going to go as planned, but one thing is for sure, God is always here and listening. I have found that my bible and gratitude journals have kept me out of a negative mind set. I encourage everyone to try starting a journal that works for them because this is part of self-care.
Learn to lean on God in times of uncertainty because he is always listening. Jeremiah 29:11 is my favorite bible verse and I reference it often. Give it all to God. Trust me it feels so good to know God is in control.
I have a rocking chair in my bedroom, which is one of my favorite places. I often sit in that chair, writing in my gratitude journal. It is amazing how I change after writing a page of things I am grateful for. When writing I stay away from being grateful for material possessions.
Life is much more than material possessions and writing a list of things you are grateful for outside of that will allow you to see how much your life is good without these things.
If you are taking care of an ill family member, what advice would you provide? How do you find peace? I would love to read your comments!