Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Caregiver stress--What do I do about it? pt. 5
In your entire arsenal against caregiver stress, what I'm going to discuss today may be the most important weapon.
A sense of humour.
"Are you nuts? There's not a thing funny about this situation. My heart is breaking, I'm exhausted and most of the time I have no idea if I'm doing the right thing. How can I laugh?"
In many ways, that's true. But the ability to see the funny side of a situation and to laugh when crying is also an option can be your salvation. You're not laughing at. Sometimes you're laughing with, and sometimes you're just laughing. But laughter can give you the strength to go on.
In the stories I am about to share, the names have been changed and the people left us a long time ago. But the stories...the stories remain.
Velma had an incredibly sharp mind until the last year of her life. She worked complicated crossword puzzles every day and had many opinions on politics and current events. She loved the symphony and was every bit a lady. Later in life she had a stroke, and her mind became uncharacteristically confused. She hoarded the garters used for the kind of briefs she wore, and was convinced the staff was stealing them and selling them on the black market. (There's a black market for those kind of things?)
One day, Velma made a slow journey down to my desk. Every step was work, but she soldiered forward, grasping her walker and moving with a slightly tipped gait. I saw her coming and wondered why she had ventured this far. In her present state, a journey like this was a lot of work. I stood from my chair as she arrived, deciding to try to discover how I could help her. For a few minutes, she stood silent, although she seemed to be concentrating on something behind the desk. Ignoring my questions, she began to shake her head. She pointed to my chair, on the back of which was an Obus form I won in a contest at work. The name of the company which had supplied it was in bold white letters on the black fabric--Therapist's Choice.
"The Rapist's Choice." read Velma, shaking her head. She turned to leave, but I heard her mutter to herself, "Makes you wonder what they're doing down here."
A lady from our independent living apartments came to my desk, looking as if she had lost something. I asked her if I could help her.
"I'm looking for Ann Peachman, but she's on vacation."
"I'm Ann Peachman."
"Oh, you're Ann Peachman when she's away?"
No, I'm Ann Peachman all the time."
Brigit was a delightful Irish blind lady who lived in our dementia unit. She had strong opinions about everything, and wasn't the least bit shy about expressing them. Her blindness was recent, but because it was combined with dementia, she didn't have the heightened senses many other blind people have.
One day, the piano tuner arrived just before lunch. He began to work on the piano in the lounge where Brigit was sitting, waiting for lunch. As he systematically plinked and plunked his way up the keyboard and down again. I noticed Bridget was becoming agitated, making "Tsk." noises and wiggling in her chair. Just before he was done, she could stand it no longer, and burst out with, "If you canna play the thing, you'd be better to leave it alone!"
Even when grief is fresh, there can be a funny side. I had a newly widowed wife ask me what to take to the funeral home. Did she need underwear? I told her to ask the funeral home. I had no idea.
But it's certainly something to ponder in the middle of the night.
And when I was at the funeral home planning my husband's memorial service, I was asked to look at urns. I burst out laughing (and got some startled looks from the person helping me.) How could I explain to her how funny Bill would have found that? He just wasn't an urn kind of guy. I ended up buying boxes at the Dollar store with pictures of shells on them. Much more his style.
As you start your day as a caregiver, ask God to show you where the smiles and laughter lie. It will make your journey a little lighter.