Ways We Helped Our Mom — The Primary Caregiver

by Kim Keller

Our mom was overwhelmed with worry and the caregiving workload.  When Dad was at home, she was taking care of his needs pretty much non-stop.  When Dad was in the hospital or rehab, she visited him everyday.  It was stressful staying on top of his care and traveling back and forth, day in and day out.  She would get home late, have her cup of tea, read a couple of emails and go to bed.  The next day she would do it all over again.  It was relentless.  She was emotionally and physically drained.

Here are some of the things we did to help support our mother during this strenuous time:

  • Because she has amazing and supportive friends, we urged Mom to meet them each night for dinner.  This hour or two of socializing helped her connect with the outside world and recharge her batteries.  It also saved her from eating nothing but hospital food every night.
  • We reached out to our parents’ church and found that it offered many services (or ministries) that could help.  For example, The Stephen Ministry helps people through crisis situations with one-to-one support.  This program benefited our mom, and the relationship that developed is truly special.  Click here for more information.
  • We called Mom everyday to let her know she was not alone in this struggle.  We let her vent her frustrations, her fears, and her concerns.
  • Mom had a hard time calling family and friends back with updates because it meant that she had to rehash everything all over again.  So we took over this responsibility – she told us who needed to be called and we would handle it.
  • We took turns going to Florida, rather than traveling together, so that Mom would have company that much longer.
  • Driving 40 minutes back and forth to the hospital was tiresome, so we would chauffeur Mom when we were there.
  • Actually making dinner for herself was not an option with the amount of time and energy that would require.  So we would make dinner for her and her friends, which also gave us an opportunity to thank the friends for all their support.
  • We visited Dad at the hospital, without Mom, to give her a whole day to herself.
  • What she didn’t need was extra work cleaning up after house guests.  So we would help with housework and make certain that our sheets, towels and the room in general were all clean before we flew back to New York.
  • Even if you’re in the best of emotional states, dealing with bills and insurance paperwork can make you crazy.  So, as medical bills and forms piled up, we would handle anything she had questions about.
  • We ran errands, such as grocery shopping and buying cards and gifts for upcoming occasions for family and friends.
  • We sent flowers.  When we were growing up, our dad had a rose garden that he just loved.  Whenever someone was down and out, he’d bring them flowers.  Karen and I associate flowers with our dad and with showing love and support.

When there’s a sick loved one at the center of a crisis, it’s easy to lose sight of the struggle that the primary caregivers undergo.  But these ideas definitely made a difference with our mom.  We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions about how to support the primary caregivers you know.

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