Caregiving For All: Del Larson, Certified Lay Minister
Topic 1: First, you are not alone. I admit that many times I have felt alone, and like I was drowning. I was first responsible for my parents. Oh, I had help in their care, but I was the captain of the ship. There were times I had images of the Titanic sinking, and I was trying to hang on. However, when I looked around there are many lifeboats that held my supportive wife, our children, friends, relatives, and colleagues standing and waving to me. They were there for me, reaching out to grab me and help pull me out.
Worry and fear, are very strong emotions that many of us have. I admit I might have been in the top 10 for worriers when I first started. Yes, I still worry today about my wife, but it is so much better than my reactions 30 years ago.
- Journaling— Every time that issues, appointments, or calls came I put them in my journal. Eventually, when I became stressed out, I went back and read my journal. I saw all that was accomplished, and although my parents were getting worse, I was seeing that what we were doing was the best we could. There is no doubt that God also worked with us. You will see how God has been there for us through this journey. When I turned to God, fear and anxiety decreased. Over time, as my faith grew, I realized how important it was to ask God for help. My brother had an expression, “If God brings you to it, God will bring you through it!”
- Take care of yourself— Stop thinking you can take care of everything. You can’t! You will only make things worse by harming your health. Then who will care for your loved one? You have a home, a family, a job, and other things to take care of. My wife was excellent about picking up some of my tasks and taking my parents to appointments. My teenage children occasionally stayed with their grandparents when needed, including my son driving them at times. My colleagues reminded me when I looked tired or got grouchy. Friends and relatives called, or visited to see how we were doing. Taking care of my wife for the last few years has made me more aware of taking care of myself. When I had back major surgery in March of 2021, I was in the hospital and rehabbed for two weeks. My wife was home by herself, much of the time alone. With the help of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, the caregiver group I belong to, our family developed a care plan that covered every situation. One time my daughter called, and felt that my wife was choking. She immediately called our neighbor to check on her. She was fine. Remember those who fail to plan, plan to fail. With this plan in place, I was able to go ice fishing with my son and his two daughters this winter for 3 days. Recently, I drove to Aberdeen, SD to visit my last remaining aunt. Nine hours I was gone, and my wife was covered for half of that time. I have come to realize more and more that my health has deteriorated. That is why I am taking the time for me to do the things that help me stay strong and sharp. Driving for 6 hours was a soothing time.
- My wife, who is in a wheelchair, but can transfer to other chairs and beds, calls me a helicopter caregiver. I am always checking on her and even installed a security camera. I have cut back on its use because it beeped every time she moved, and started to follow her. It wasn’t healthy for me. I had to have faith. The reduced time was better for me, as I am not interrupted every time she moves. Luann also has a Life Alert, which detects falls, or if she pushes the button, help will be summoned. It has happened one time. She tipped over in her wheelchair on the balcony. I had walked our daughter out but forgot my keys. I tried to call Luann to let me in, but no answer. I immediately called one of our neighbors, who is on our emergency list, to let me in. 911 was on the way, and my son called me because he got a call from Life Alert. I was able to lift the chair off of her. She only had a bruised ankle. I tried to lift it again later, but there was no way I could budge it. Thank God for creating adrenaline.
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