We take things for granted that we do every day. The simple act of brushing our teeth, putting our pants on, making a morning meal, jumping in the car to grab some groceries, raking leaves and cleaning the yard or putting together a meal for our family, are all things we do without considering that these things are a privilege that many others are unable to do.
My mom fell and broke her hip a few months back, and I have been living with her since she had her hip replaced. This same woman who used to run 5 miles daily, SCUBA dived her way throughout the Caribbean, took up rollerblading at 59, and could always waterski better than me (even when she was 60) is now wrestling to put on a pair of socks. As she slowly makes her way through the house, I see how frustrating it is to use a walker. Add to this, the fact that she has advancing dementia, and it is a challenging combination at best. My once independent single mom who held several jobs, never complained and always walked with a joyful step, now has trouble remembering how to make instant oatmeal in the morning and cannot be left alone for too long.
It is hard work taking care of anyone, but there are special issues when taking care of a parent. To allow them to continue to have their dignity while still needing to help them with the most rudimentary tasks. Keeping a patient and loving attitude, even when we feel out of sorts ourselves, for not only are we responsible for another adult, but this is the person we spent years looking up to. For most of us, it is a slow progression of role reversal, but it is still challenging to see a parent who has now become the child.
I am FAR from perfect, but I have learned several lessons about being a “joyful giver.” When we finally understand, that when done correctly, we can receive as much as we give when placed in this role.
- Feeling blessed that our circumstances allow us to be of service.
Each of us have different circumstances, and therefore we all have something to give. I can work remotely, and am blessed to be able to go from the west coast to the east coast to help with my mother for a few months at a time during each year. Once I go back home, my sister’s job allows her to take a leave of absence for a few months until I return. My other sister grocery shops weekly and lives close by if she is needed. My wonderful nieces spend a lot of time with my mom; they organize her medicines, and handle many of her doctor’s appointments and other medical concerns. Each of us have different situations, but we give what we can.
- Living “selflessly” allows us to put our own lives and challenges in perspective.
The beautiful part of living in service and helping others, is that it takes the focus away from ourselves and our on-going little struggles. So whether we have lost a spouse, are helping to take care of a grandchild, dealing with a father who just had back surgery, or getting divorced; by seeing the issues that others have first hand, we gain a stronger perspective about how we are blessed in our own lives.
- Giving lovingly to another teaches us wonderful lessons about patience, self love and acceptance.
In taking care of another person, we quickly learn what triggers us. Often, when we lack patience with others, it is because we lack it with ourselves. So the more we practice loving others, the more we learn to love and accept ourselves and the flaws we possess.
Sometimes in life we meet an “Earth Angel” who is there to support and love us in our time of need, while other times in life, we ARE the “Earth Angel.” The sooner we understand what a truly blessed privilege caring for a loved one is, the quicker we move away from being an inconvenienced martyr, to a loving, positive and supportive caregiver.