Taking Care of Yourself by Reaching Out
“I’m too busy to even begin to think about doing anything more – even reaching out.”
When I read Yosaif August’s blog, I really identified with this sentence. Yosaif is the author of Coaching for Caregivers: How to Reach Out Before You Burn Out.
Here are some of his words of wisdom:
“When we’re exhausted or on overwhelm, how do we begin thinking about doing anything beyond what we’re already doing? And reaching out certainly sounds like a major bit of doing.
“But, I’d like you to consider the idea that reaching out is not just another item on a ‘to do’ list. It’s on a different kind of list, a ‘to be’ list. This item on the list is about being connected. About being receptive to the web of connections that can make our tough times much more endurable and our better times much more enjoyable.
“Take a few moments and imagine yourself being open to receiving the love and support that is flowing towards you. Try this even if you don’t quite believe it right now. Relax into it. Imagine your antenna beaming out, letting people know you are in receptive mode. Relax into it.
“Opening up more to love and support is a great way of taking care of yourself.”
I was lucky; during my caregiving journey with my mom — when I was too exhausted and shy to reach out for help — a dear friend reached out to me.
When Maril asked, “Can I go with you to visit your mother?” I felt like a flutter of angels had gathered around me.
“Really?” I asked. “You want to see Mom with me?”
She did. I prepared her for our visit, describing Mom’s various moods. Maril did not seem shocked, worried, or afraid. I told her about walking into the sometimes chaotic energy of the locked Alzheimer’s unit. She simply nodded as if this were an ordinary occurrence, which, for me, it was.
The day of our visit I felt lightness inside; I was eager to share my secret world with my friend.
When we arrived, Mom was sitting at a table in the dining room with a magazine in front of her. She looked pretty and serene and she smiled when we came in. We sat next to her and Maril took her hands.
“How are you Fran?” Maril said, looking into my mother’s eyes.
“Well I you know the scatter of it all,” my mother answered.
“I do know the scatter of it all. How are you getting along here?”
“Like a diamond in the sky,” my mother said.
As I listened as my mother and my friend talk, I was proud of my mother’s poetic and eccentric answers, proud of the way she engaged in the conversation. And I was grateful that my friend was able to listen to her words and intuit their deeper meaning.
“I enjoyed seeing your mom,” Maril said, as we drove home. “I’d like to go again with you sometime.”
The visit was a huge gift for me. Seeing Maril engage with and appreciate my mom reminded me of my mother’s many talents and facets. This knowledge later helped me get through those moments when my mother seemed faraway or lost. My friend reminded me — there are so many ways to carry on a good conversation. All you need is attention, intention, and love.
Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.
I am so intrigued by what she meant by those words. Did she always communicate in such “enigmatic” terms or just since dementia?
Ada & Bill. Hi Deborah. Everything that Yosaif bloged and your article is true. Ada is 85 I am 86 we have been married 63 years,Ada has had Dementia for 10 years,I looked after her for 6 years , Ada has been in a wonderful E,M.I. Care Home for 4 years, she can not put words together and hold a conversation, but communicates with a bright twinkle of the eyes , a smile and holds my hands and squeezes them when I say Ada Darling you are lovely and I Love You. I also read poems and stories to Ada.
I do presentations about Dementia for Denbighshire County Council Dignity and Care North Wales U, K. I am a Dementia Purple Angel Ambassador. Cheerio Bill .