I am excited and humbled to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Caregivers Corner, a blog and community space for Caregivers.
What started as me sharing a few stories and lessons on social media about caregiving for my mother turned into this virtual space for other caregivers to share their stories and support other caregivers.
In the first year, we were blessed to have ten guest bloggers offer articles on the topics of self-care strategies for caregivers, the logistics of caring, and resources and support for caregiving. We also added a resource page of articles, podcasts, and other recommendations.
I am thankful for every writer and for every story. I am also grateful for our readers who respond to the articles, share their own insights or comment on how the messages have been helpful. I trust we all are being blessed by our growing community of caregivers.
This past September, my mother passed from this life to her eternal rest. It felt so shockingly sudden and heartbreaking. With my caregiving duties ended, did this mean that Caregivers Corner would end?
Absolutely not. I’ve learned many things in my nearly two years of caring for my mother in our home. There are three I want to share today that have a bearing on the importance of keeping this community together.
Giving Care Precedes Caregiving
Caregiving is the term used to describe the formal relationship of being a caregiver to a loved one, whether family, friends, or sometimes strangers. It’s the official role we take on in providing support to an aging or ill person who needs to sustain their life. Many of our guest bloggers and I became formal caregivers for mothers, fathers, or spouses when they aged or became ill. Often that entailed bringing our loved ones into our home, creating a loving space, and securing medical and other professionals for their total well-being. Sometimes being a caregiver means being the primary advocate for a loved one in a nursing home or hospital.
Yet, what my husband reminded me of when my mother passed, is that I “gave care” to my mother long before she moved in with us. All three of us, her children, did. My dad died twenty-six years ago, making Mom a widow at the relatively young age of sixty-five. Mom was fiercely independent. Mom and her younger sister, Aunt Lucy, who had also been recently widowed, moved in together. They lived their best life with their other two sisters back in Western Pennsylvania. They hung out together, shopped, went out to eat, and of course, they loved going to church together. They became the core of the Golden Girls at our family’s church.
As they both continued to age, my sister, Jocelyn, began to help out around the house, doing light housekeeping and shopping. Josh, as we call my sister, and her husband were the parents of four young children, and they helped Mom and Auntie. Mom and Auntie also helped my sister and her family. That’s giving care. That’s love.
After Aunt Lucy passed, and Mom continued to age but desired to live by herself, my sister, her husband and children, and some cousins remained the local support for mom. My siblings and I each played roles in mom’s support system. I became the point person for her medical issues. My sister would call and ask me to work directly with the doctors or during hospitalizations. My brother Joe stepped in and handled her finances and her holiday excursions to his home with his wife and daughter. That’s giving care. That’s love.
I believe all our guest bloggers last year can attest that giving of care and demonstrating love for our family members started well before the formal caregiving role.
I encourage every caregiver reading this article to reflect on those earlier caring moments and celebrate the bond of love established well before this formal caregiving season. Those memories can help sustain you in the challenging times that occur now.
And for those not fortunate enough to have had the most loving moments with a family member you are now caring for, ask God for the grace to call upon past expressions of love from others. Know you are now a vehicle of God’s love to someone else.
Grieving Is a Form of Caregiving
When Mom passed, I entered a grieving process that, quite frankly, is not complete. Some tell me grieving a mother’s passing will forever be a part of one’s earthly existence. In the midst of grief, my siblings and I knew we had a Celebration of Life to plan. Mom hated funerals. She had told us and anyone at her church who would listen, “don’t hold a funeral for me. I don’t want to be in a casket with people looking down on me and you all singing sad songs. I want you to have church and praise God!” That’s what we did. We planned to celebrate her life and our life with her.
I hadn’t seen it as such before. But planning her Celebration of Life, and memorializing her through obituaries, were parts of another phase of caregiving. Consequently, I prayerfully and collaboratively orchestrated my mother’s Celebration of Life with as much tender care as I handled her while she was alive.
That was an eye-opening experience for me. My siblings and I wanted to show her as much respect and love in her death as we had done in her life. Choosing words to honor her became a sacred duty. Honoring her wish was an act of caregiving. She entrusted those desires to us, and we knew she trusted us to fulfill them. Even the mundane and sometimes grueling duties of choosing urns, burial plots, and headstones became sacred acts of care.
We don’t often want to have those conversations while our loved ones are still with us, but knowing their desires will help you attend to this phase of caregiving when the time comes.
Caregiving Sensitizes Us to Other Caregivers
Finally, though my formal caregiving for Mom has ended, I have become even more sensitized to other caregivers. When I shared my stories of caregiving before my mom passed, some people, not many, but a few seemed to dismiss my stories as if I was complaining. Whether they wrote it or not, I heard something to the effect of, “Oh, you’ll get through this, just like I did.” I know their intent wasn’t to minimize what I was going through, but their words felt dismissive. What may have been more helpful was, “I understand. I went through something similar.” In fact, many people did reach out with just those caring sentiments. That’s what stuck with me.
Now, when others come to me describing their caregiving situations, I try to listen and empathize. I’ve had members of my church pull me aside and begin to share what’s going on with their loved ones and how they need to formalize care. My transparency with caregiving encouraged others to become more transparent about their current or potential caregiving situations. The truth of that transparency sets us free to get the help we need for our loved ones and ourselves.
Caregiving may entail providing care in one’s home or facilitating the care of a loved one in a hospital or nursing home. It is crucial to have the support of others to enhance caregiving.
That’s what I see with Caregivers Corner. This space is about creating a culture of caregiving that starts with the value of care and love for one another.
So again, please join me in celebrating one year of the Caregivers Corner! Thank you to every writer, reader, and sharer.
We have a great lineup for this year. Please bookmark this site and share it with others.
Blessings to all of you, and may 2023 be a blessed year for us all!
Continue to follow our caregiving blog series at https://www.drjeanneporterking.com/caregivers-corner/