A guide to being strong in yourself as you care for a loved one
My mother was given a maximum of six months to live so we brought her into our home to care for her last days. Three years later she was still with us! I share the insights and understanding that this time brought me and how you can keep your energy and spirits strong through what can be an intensely demanding and challenging time. No matter how traumatic or dire your situation with your loved one it is important to find time and opportunity to bring some light and love into both your lives. Sometimes you will have to search hard for the joy but here are some ways that I used that can lighten the energies and lift the spirits of all involved.
Music and Singing
Sharon Snir, a friend of mine, turned her time caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s into an opportunity to resolve their differences and to reconnect after years of discord. She wrote a delightful book about her experiences called “Looking for Lionel” (available on Amazon). She tells of the time she and her mother spent singing together and how this bridged the communication gap created by her mother’s disease. I remembered this when my mother was ill and in my care, but unfortunately my singing would certainly do nothing to raise anyone’s spirits! So, I used other people’s voices instead! I made up a playlist of all my mother’s favourites including Bing Crosby, the Big Bands of the forties and Tina Turner and her all-time favourite, Ella Fitzgerald. The music had an immediate effect on her and she would sing along with them for hours. Even if I couldn’t always sit with her I would set up my iPad and leave her with her music knowing she was happy.
My uncle also lived to a ripe old age (99), unfortunately he lost his sight in his later years, so I set up an iPod playlist for him of his favourite music and opera and tuned his radio into Classic FM. Like his sister music proved a tremendous comfort for him too.
I mentioned previously that I would get out the photo albums to help my mother reconnect to her family who had passed on, but it was also great to use the albums to revisit lovely family times and share old stories and funny moments. I have to say, she was far better than me at remembering times long past and she had instant recall of the names of old friends and neighbours from my childhood and her youth. I filled her room with photos of the family and friends and I created a moving picture story on an electronic photo album. Reading, TV and Radio We had a TV installed in my mother’s bedroom and she would happily snooze through favourite soaps and we had a lovely regular carer who would read the newspaper to her and they would laugh together at the tittle tattle of the local community. Essential Oils and Crystals
The energy of a sick room can become quite heavy, but you can change the mood instantly by burning or spraying essential oils. I have my own blend called Clear & Cleanse which is a mix of peppermint, Spanish Sage, Juniper Berry and Cedarwood – all of which are great for clearing the atmosphere of a room. Smudging, which is the burning of herbs such as Sage, will also clear a room and Frankincense burnt on charcoal is extremely affective and I would smudge my entire home every week while my mother stayed with us simply because her energy was so low I didn’t want any negativity around to cause her a problem.
Crystals will instantly lift the energy of a room. You can use:
- Turquoise for healing
- Amethyst for clarity and insomnia
- Rose Quartz for love and peace
- Black Tourmaline to clear away negative energies
Just remember to cleanse in sea salt regularly as they will get overloaded.
Finding the value
Despite the difficulties you face when you care for an elderly parent, particularly if they are in your home, there is one absolute constant and that is the love and the satisfaction you experience of giving to someone who made sacrifices for you and you has made you the focus of so much of their own lives. Sometimes you need to step back from the challenges of the daily routine and see the great gift you are giving each other. To cherish and love, tend, nurture and give to someone you love is such a wonderful experience but the joy of it can get lost in the world of the sick room. Take a little time to just sit with them and hold
hands and enjoy the moment – you will feel better for it!
Don’t be afraid to laugh at some of the crazy things that are said and done! If you can, find things to laugh at and share; you will find the energy lifts immediately. even if it might seem a little disrespectful. In a recent interview, Dame Julie Walters shared memories of her grandmother who lived with her family when she was young. The old lady obviously suffered from dementia, but Julie still laughs at some of the situations her grandmother got into and she regales the fun her family had when she used a pair of coal tongs to eat a boiled egg. Her grandmother was the inspiration for the many “eccentric old lady” roles she
played through her acting career. Laughter is a great release for the tension and pent up anxiety that comes with the caring role and everyone involved gets the benefit. I saw the positive effect on my mother when I either got the conversation around to humorous incidents in our family history or when we put reruns on her favourite TV comedies such as Only Fools and Horses – the number of repeats didn’t seem to matter.
Other experiences that can help:
- Pets. My mother loved to stroke and pet our Labradors. If you don’t have dogs of
your own encourage friends to bring their pets to visit for the elderly find great
comfort from petting dogs.
- A bird table just outside the window where they sit will give them hours of
- Fresh flowers in the bedroom and around the house will uplift the energy and bring
pleasure for everyone.
- Fluffy toys and hot water bottles can be great sources of amusement and comfort.
- Encourage friends and family members to visit. Even the shortest visit lightens up
the day for them.
- This is the last article in this series so I thank you for sharing my journey of caring – I hope I
have helped you in what can be a most challenging time.
- Continue your own life as normally as you possibly can and keep a balance
- Get as much help as you can to relieve you
- Don’t step into self-sacrifice but do what you do with love rather than duty
- Include your parent in the decision making as much as possible
- Protect your energy from the negativity of the events and people around you
- Do the best you can and avoid guilt
- Look for the positive wherever you can
- And finally – keep your sense of humour!
My love and thoughts are with you!
Love and hugs Anne xx
About the author: Anne Jones is an international author and key-note speaker. Her self-help books have been translated into 17 languages. With her down to earth style she helps her audiences and readers to find ways to cope with everyday problems and overcome the effects of trauma and loss. She gives practical advice on how to stay uplifted and energised as you face the challenges of life. See her website for further information.