Caregiver Support Lessons…

Last fall, I started a caregiver’s support group. The goal was to offer a non-judgmental setting for adult children to share their stories. While being the facilitator, my real job was arranging chairs and making sure everyone had a turn to speak. This was the first insight.

Given the opportunity, caregivers have a lot to say.

The drama of aging parents is consumptive and complex. Caregivers are exhausted by endless tasks and wind up isolated. They rarely talk with a group of people who not only want to hear their stories but have deep empathy for their issues. When they do, they are taken back by what they hear and what they say. This was the second insight.

Caregivers assume their family situation is not the norm.

The drama of aging parents is embedded with truths that we all share. Things end and change as our parents become older versions of themselves and we strangely lose our youth. Things fall apart as reality refuses to cooperate with our attempts to keep everyone happy. The game is not fair as siblings find a list of reasons to not lend a hand. Our best laid plans many times are met with indifference, anger and rejection. This was the third insight.

Caregivers forget the redemptive power of the telling.

Shakespeare’s familiar quote that “a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.”
So we sit and listen to the telling. We don’t try to fix; we don’t edit the raw truth. We know our listening and caring is enough. Surprisingly, we find a collective courage from our willingness to do the right thing in a messy world that we neither control nor fully understand. But we understand the sitting and the telling and amid the crazy days that march us forward, we feel blessed to have found an emotional respite when we least expected it.

2 responses to “Caregiver Support Lessons…

  1. Thank you so much for your book. Since my dad passed into Heaven 8 years ago, I have shouldered a burden a taking care of my mom. She is 80 now and is very independent. She lives by herself and is very capable of taking care of herself. My burden is sel-imposed. However, I have become impatient with her as she resells the same stories line by line. My fast paced life as a 55 year old has caused me not to take th time to listen an to become a legacy coach- one who listens.

    Will you be leading any workshops in the Atlana area?


  2. Listening to repetition is not easy for anyone, especially when you feeling anxious and short on time. One way to make listening better for your mom and you is to ask evocative questions. Look for moments in the all too familiar story that you can insert one these three prompts:

    Tell me

    Here are some examples:

    I never really knew how you met her. Tell me more.
    What became of her after he died?
    How did you even know there was a problem?

    Familiar stories all have subplots and are legacy facilitators. Look for the bigger story…

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