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The simply abundant moments in caregiving

by Isabel Fawcett, SPHR

With good reason, many stories of exhausted caregivers who also feel unappreciated abound. Non-caregivers may be surprised at how little it takes to show you support your caregiver friends and relatives.

Simplicity and caregiver support

For many individuals, including caregivers and some of our elders, it's the little things in life that matter most.

  • Thinking of you moments in caregiving and eldercare

Long before I became a full-time caregiver to my octogenarian mother, I knew that the world had at least one "Diet Coke fairy." Somehow, the Diet Coke fairy learned that Mom's favorite drink was Diet Coke. That's how the thinking-of-you moments began, and occasionally still recur. The neighborhood Diet Coke fairy occasionally leaves my mother a 6-pack of Diet Cokes out front. No words necessary - it's such a special thought - one that invariably makes my mother smile as she wonders who her secret Santa may be. (It's not me!) In time, there were two - count 'em - two Diet Coke fairies, making Mom feel even more special and loved. Not only does Mom appreciate her thoughtful diet soft-drink fairies, but so do I, although I am not a Coke drinker.

The thoughtful gesture is a reminder of our friends and neighbors who care enough to share.

  • Knock-knock! Who's there? It's one tiny-tot neighbor!

Why, it's our friendly neighbor's precious pup that races inside our home the second I open the door. Mom adores little princess pup and enjoys waving to little pup, throwing kisses, and whispering sweet-somethings (from across the room) to our cute pet neighbor. Little pup has long since won my heart and wins my caregiving spirit time and again, when I see how my mother and little pup engage with each other. Smiles come naturally for all involved! Mom cheerfully and graciously yields her lift chair to little princess pup when she senses that little princess is yearning to snuggle into the cozy lift chair. No problem-a! There's always lots of laughter when princess pup and her owner (our friend) stop by to say hello and 'allows' little princess pup to "wave" her little paw to say goodbye to Mom.

  • Gifts and souvenirs for your elder can be fun

For any reason, or no reason at all, I occasionally gift my Mom with "little things" I believe may be fun or meaningful to her now that she is no longer in acquisition and life expansion years. Last Christmas, one of the gifts I gave Mom was a small coffee or tea mug depicting Charlie Brown blissfully hugging Snoopy, Charlie Brown's comic-strip dog. The inside rim of the cup says, "Life doesn't get much better than this." Not only did my mother smile when she opened the "life doesn't get much better…." gift mug each morning when she savors her first cup of tea, she reads the quote aloud. Needless to say, both caregiver and elder enjoy freebie smiles, and new care memories are being made with each 'new' reading of the quote.

The life quality quote is meaningful to me as a caregiver to an elder because, in truth, caring at home is the best possible moment and a lifetime memory. What comes next for a full-time caregiver like me is never easy, nor is it likely to be any less challenging than eldercare.

  • Greeting cards to elders need not be put away

By choice, I made the centerpiece of my dining table a tray gifted to Mom as a travel souvenir years ago. The souvenir tray is now filled with birthday and holiday greeting cards to my mother, including many I have given her over the years. The memory-filled tray faces Mom's regular seat at the dining table. It is not uncommon for Mom to read aloud from older (and more recent) greeting cards while I set the table and serve our meals daily. Very often, hearing my mother tearfully read the sentiments expressed in her many cards makes me stop, listen, and give her a hug. Occasionally, I also experience healing, loving tears as I listen to her reading - and sharing special family memories.

When was the last time you sent a greeting card to an elder - just because? While you're at it, some caregivers may welcome a high-touch handwritten greeting from you in the high-tech e-Age.

  • Never alone is caregiving's mantra

Your Elder May be Bored or Needing a Little Exercise features a late-night visit to one of our neighbor friends. A couple of our neighborhood friends, including my next door neighbor, have long since reassured and reminded me over the years that if I ever need "anything, even in the middle of the night," I am welcome to call on them.

On one long and lonely caregiving night, as the EMS exited my home, my next door neighbor came right over to check on us - in the wee hours of the morning, without having been asked or called. Just knowing that our neighbor is so attentive affords me greater peace of mind during my days of care. That's true friendship and outstanding caregiving support, yet it doesn't even take that much to make some of us caregivers and our elders smile.

What little thing might you do for a caregiver in your world today that might be reassuring to the caregiver and/or an elder? You may be surprised at how appreciative many elders and their caregivers are - for the smallest blessings in our lives.

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