Life’s most challenging situations have a way of bringing forth lots of advice from friends and family. While all of it is given with the best of intentions, not all of it is helpful. Often it takes someone who has walked a similar path to really understand what it is you're going through, and what you might need to hear.
This is especially true for the difficult experience of caring for a loved one in the final stage of life.
We asked people who are currently caring, or have cared for a loved one, to share the words they wish they’d heard early in their experience.
“Be open and honest, and allow conversations to happen.”
So much can go unsaid because as caregivers we are worried about burdening others, especially the sick or frail person we are caring for. But in most cases open communication and active listening are the key to staying connected to one another.
“Be willing to have conversations about end of life.”
These are perhaps the most challenging conversations you will ever have. And it’s natural to feel that speaking about death might seem like you’ve given up hope on life. But, in fact, the opposite is true. Once you have spoken about your loved one’s end-of-life desires and needs, you are able to be fully present in the moment, knowing that what’s ahead has been prepared and planned for to the best of your ability.
“Let grief speak, for both you and your loved one. Do not shut it down.”
Intimacy isn’t just about happiness, and often bonds are strengthened through emotionally charged conversations. If you can, meet these moments head on, and hand-in-hand with your loved one.
“Sit and 'be' (the vacuuming can wait).”
Many of us desperately crave down time, and space to recharge our bodies, minds and hearts. But caregiving can be an around-the-clock job. It is also true that many times caregivers lean heavily into the practical tasks of caring as a distraction. Take the time you need to focus on yourself - even if it’s just a cup of tea in the sun.
“Friends and family may want to offer help but not know how to ask - allow them that privilege by allocating tasks.”
It’s hard to imagine that those around you would consider picking up your groceries a privilege. Those who care are hungry for ways to show their love and extend you both their kindness. Try and give them those opportunities.
“Cherish the moment.”
Being present in the moment is incredibly difficult for all of us. We lead busy lives and distraction is all around us. For those of us caring for someone it’s especially difficult. The here and now is often loaded with emotion. An easy way to feel more present is to pay the moment some gratitude. A simple, “I am grateful to be holding your hand, Mum” can help you both be mindful of the moment.
“Talk to someone.”
It’s natural to sometimes feel ‘all talked out’. But often what we mean when we say that is that we are exhausted with answering the same questions from friends and family, and what we really desire is a judgement-free space where we can release some of our most confusing, painful and sometimes, inexplicable thoughts and feelings. If you don’t have someone you feel comfortable speaking with on that level, remember, there’s always a Violet guide. Every guide volunteers their time supporting fellow caregivers because they know how important it is to have someone to turn to who has walked a similar path.