What Caregivers Know and You Can Know Too

Mama thrilled my heart twice today!

First when I arrived, I checked in on Mom and gave her a drink. As I was leaving to get lunch, Mama said, “Don’t fall down.” And it so warmed my heart. It sounded like such a motherly thing to say, and I feel short on mothering these days.

And then later, as I was feeding Mama lunch, she looked right into my eyes and said, “I like you.” And oh, I can’t tell you how that fed my soul! Even just to have her look right in my eyes is getting harder to come by these days. She most often stares off into space or at pictures on the wall. So to have her look right at me, right into my eyes, is a blessing. And to have her say, “I like you,” at the same time is a victory!

I thought at the time, I can’t wait to share this. Followed by the thought, Will anyone “get” it? Doesn’t it just sound trivial to most people? Or maybe even sad?

But as I contemplated it I quickly concluded that my fellow caregivers will totally understand what I’m saying. And I know they will rejoice with me. And the ones who have traveled this road before me will “get it”. Completely. No doubt. And they will remember their own victory moments. And they will send me a heart high-five!

Because caregivers know, as no others can, how precious and meaningful a simple sentence can be. They know the deep feelings that can come with a look or a touch. They know how priceless a word can be. They know what a trophy a smile can be.

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Caregivers, nurses, hospice workers and aides are in the thick of the battle.They are pouring their hearts and souls and lives out to meet the needs of others. They aren’t sitting on the bench. They are in the game.

And it’s tough and it’s hard and it can be grueling. But I want to encourage any benchwarmers out there by saying this; you miss the bumps and the agonies and the pain when you sit on the sidelines. But you miss the depth of the joys too.

Don’t tell yourself it’s too hard and that you can’t do it. Don’t stay away from your loved one who has dementia, or any illness for that matter, because it’s too hard for you to bear. Don’t say, “I don’t want to see them that way. I want to remember them the way they were.”

Press through that. Take a deep breath. Pray. Trust God to give you the grace and strength to handle it and plunge in. Make that call. Make that visit before it’s too late. And if the visit is horrible and you leave crying, don’t quit. Go back again in a few days, or a week. Keep trying!

Bring a flower. Bring a cookie. Bring a card or a song or a dog. Just bring yourself and show up and be there. Maybe you’re loved one doesn’t know you at all. I know it’s hard. But the important thing is that you know them. So show that you do. And make some memories for yourself. Before it’s too late.

Do it now. Pour out some love today. Someday you won’t have the chance anymore and you’ll regret it.

Brush her hair. Hold his hand. Sing a song. If he is still mobile take him for a drive or walk. Look at pictures together. Talk about whatever they’re still able to talk about if they can still talk. Share your own life with them if they can’t.

Bring a meal. Mow a lawn. Fix a drip. Wash some clothes. If you’re bedridden or housebound, be a prayer warrior. You can change lives that way! You know what you’re able to do. Look for a need you can fill, and do it.

Press through the fear and the sorrow. Press through! You can do it! With God’s help you can certainly do it!

Be open to the pain and hurt of being there through the hard stuff. Yes, it will be painful. Yes, it will wrench your heart. But you will never know the elation of the victory moments, if you don’t go through the pain. The wins are never as sweet for the benchwarmers. The spectators can’t feel the same elation as the players. The onlookers at the marathon don’t win the medals.

There is someone in your life now who could use a visit. There is someone you could show love to. Press through and do it. You won’t regret giving love. You may deeply regret missing your chance.

Be strong and brave and do it. Maybe this is the day your dear one will look in your eyes and say, “I like you.” Or even “I love you.” Maybe this is the day they will know your name. What if it’s the last day they do? Please don’t miss it.

And as Mama said today, “Don’t fall down.” This is your opportunity. Don’t fall. Don’t fail. Stand up and be part of the team.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2a (NKJV)

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My daughter, Annie, pictured here with my mom, her grandma. Annie is an amazing caregiver!

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21 thoughts on “What Caregivers Know and You Can Know Too

  1. terry kraft says:

    I have really been appreciating your insightful writings on your relationship with your mother and her struggles with memory loss.
    I was a primary caregiver to both of my parents who suffered from Parkinson’s and Dementia for over 10 years. They both passed in the fall one month apart from each other after 70 years together. I miss them every day. Reading what you post has helped me in my grieving. My mother came back to us in a sense during the last two days of her life. As I sat by her bedside that final 48 hours she said some very profound things that I will always remember. Both of my parents told me they were leaving the day before they died. Dad looked right at me and said “One More Day” and he died the following afternoon. Mom said “Tomorrow?” and asked me if I was going with her. Letting them go was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Saying good-bye when I had asked God to take them because they no longer had any quality of life was harder than I ever imagined. One of the final things that my mother said to my daughter and I as we were holding her hands with tears in our eyes was “Be Brave, Be Strong”. I found that especially comforting after all that we had been through the last 10 years of her life because she still knew how much we cared and how hard losing her was going to be for us. You are so right only those who have walked in the shoes of caring for and participating in the life of a love one as they struggled can truly appreciate the value of the little blessings. Thank you for your posts. Keep doing the good work.

  2. missistine says:

    Thank you, for writing. I love your blog. It makes me feel much less alone. I have been a live-in caregiver to my Mother for fourteen years. A year and a half ago- I had to give up that fight. Unlike you, I have no other family to help and my Mother’s dementia had advanced to the point where my own mental and physical health were in danger. My marriage was on the rocks……
    We had to bring her to a nursing home. We needed help- and that was the only possible way. I see my Mom almost every other day. I bring her laundry home to wash because she is allergic to the detergent at the nursing home. I call all the time. I wash her hair. I bring her treats and smoothies. I hold her hand. I do what I can but it is so so hard. I have a lot of guilt……
    This entry makes me want to send it to my brother. He has left us. Moved away 14 years ago. Has been home ONCE – right before my Mom went into nursing care. He says he cannot handle it…..I have so much anger and sadness about this.

    • chermor2 says:

      God bless you for all you’re doing, missitine! Please don’t feel guilty. It sounds like you are absolutely doing the best you can. You are still being a caregiver, just not a live-in one. Your health and marriage are important, too! I’m sorry about your brother. I understand the challenge of that. Prayer can change people’s hearts. I hope it will in his case. Blessings~Cheryl

  3. Judy says:

    What a wonderful message. Know that you are a blessing to your parents and an outstanding example to the rest of us.

    • chermor2 says:

      Thank you for your encouragement, Judy. It’s hard being a caregiver, but there are such blessings, too. And I’m so thankful for my parents. I wish I was a better example. I have my struggles, but God gives grace. Thank you! ~Cheryl

  4. maillady says:

    I understand what you mean about your mother not connecting with you visually. I experienced the same thing with my mom. She would not look us in the eye, or speak–yet she would surprise us from time to time with a word or two that fit right in with a conversation going on around her. It made me more determined to rub her back, hold her hand, talk to her, and show love–perhaps she knew more than she could tell us.

    • chermor2 says:

      Yes, my mother will say surprisingly appropriate things sometimes, too! Glad to hear it made you more determined to show love! God bless! ~Cheryl

  5. Kathy Chastain says:

    I love your blog too….only those of us who are going through this will ever understand!

    • chermor2 says:

      Thank you, Kathy! We are in a club of our own aren’t we? It’s such a tough club to be in, but there are joys, too, that others will never know. May God bless you. ~Cheryl

  6. thanks for your posts it helps. Lost my dad and my husbands dad with alzheimers a year apart. .Been 2 yrs tomorrow my Dad died.
    Now my Mother is to the stage she halucintes some times she was looking for my dad the other day she could swear she was talking to him, then he disappeared so she was looking for him all over. It is a sad time, it is hard to tell real from not real.

  7. I totally totally get it!!! My sister-in-law Cynthia has dementia and it’s going on about 4 years. I share our story and our Cynthia with our followers on Instagram and one of our insta-friends pointed me to your post “What I’ll Say to my Children if I’m Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s” and it so captured what my husband and I have felt since we re-entered Cynthia’s life and started on this journey with her…well, here I am starting to read your blog and this entry I felt I had to say something. We get it. We get that elated feeling each time she smiles at us and each word she speaks, which is not as often as we would love but we cling on to each sign of awareness and recognition still left. Through her, God is teaching us about ourselves and about others, what they are willing to do and what they are not willing to do for Cynthia, for us, for themselves. We are thankful to be a part of this lesson. And so thankful our friend helped us find you. I’ll be back. I cannot wait to share this with my husband tonight!
    With love,
    Thien

  8. Jane says:

    Can’t wait to read more of your blog posts – this was so heartwarming and put into words my very thoughts. Out of the confusion can come some delightful insights. Friends were visiting Mom in the nursing and she told them she’d been gardening. They asked what she was growing, and without hesitation, she said, “My children.” As I think about it, I do believe that was her take on her family:)

  9. Sue says:

    I have such renewed hope and encouragement today as I read your posts! A cousin shared your blog with me a few days ago and I feel like a sponge soaking up your words of insight. My Mother is in the early stages of dementia, but the last two years have been a huge challenge for our family. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us! This will be a daily read for me!

    • chermor2 says:

      Thank you, Sue! It so warms my heart to hear the words I share encourage another caregiver! It is a challenging time for sure. May God give you grace for the journey. Hugs! ~Cheryl

  10. al10home says:

    Just recently tuning in to your blogs….what a timely encouragement they have been to me. My mom was diagnosed a couple of years ago and I was in such denial and as most have done, I have gone through so many emotions and I know more will come as her disease is progressing. Thank you for your transparency, being a blogger myself, I know that is painful at times. Your experiences have encouraged me, challenged me and have brought gentle conviction that was needed. God never wastes our trials when we walk through them trusting fully in Him. Clearly you have! God Bless and thank you!

    • chermor2 says:

      Thank you for sharing and for your encouraging words. I’m so sorry about your mom. There is such a range of emotions involved in Alzheimer’s. Laugh whenever you can, cry when you have to, get as much help as you can, and trust God through it all. He does give grace, one day at a time. I hope you keep in touch and let me know how you and your family is doing. God bless you!

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