Tag Archives: care

Care for the Caregiver

The presenter got my attention right off, “I’ve given up on motivating caregivers to care for them-selves.  Even when that cancer or heart attack occurs, the majority of caregivers are still impervious to such talks!”

“Wow, I thought, this is an interesting approach!” I leaned back in my chair…looking forward to the dance. I like the dance. I get to use all my best strategies and tactics to avoid facing my issues: I’m attentive, ask good questions, smile, nod, participate, share a personal story or two, fill out the work sheets, do the silly exercises (that seems to impress some presenters), write down the requisite social supports that give the impression I am sincerely interested in making lasting and permanent change and otherwise look for things to include in my next presentation. Then I go back to my old bad habits: working and eating too much, exercising and sleeping too little. You know the drill.

I listened as she went through the usual litany: good nutrition, good exercise, good sleep and a healthy spirituality (usually with a huge dose of mindfulness these days). And after the presentation was over I went for the coup de grace’.

I stood in line and asked her to sign her book. She scrutinized me and asked my name. “John”, I said. Her eyes bored through me like a diamond drill. She quickly scribbled a sentence inside the cover and then flipped the book over for me to read what she had written.  “Read it out loud,” she commanded.

I read, “John is your name and compliance is your game” signed Dr. Molly K

Then Ms. Smiley Face leaned forward and whispered way too loud, “You can’t fool me. I’ve got your number.  I’ve given up on giving care for the caregiver talks to the likes of you. I know you, and I eat your kind for breakfast. When it comes to self-care you are totally helpless, hopeless…pathetic.  It will never happen.”

“Wow”, I thought, “she is good!”

She kept the momentum, “ You get to choose one of only two options. You know about old school spiritual direction…obedience and all that.

“Oh no”,  I thought, but deftly parried by nodding compliantly. (but she had me on my heels and she knew it) She had seen through my non-verbals and before I could strike back she barked.

“No…I’m making the choice for you,” I literally jumped backwards! “It’s caregiver boot camp for you.”

I hadn’t heard about caregiver boot camp before, but it sounded kind of fun.

“Not fun!” she snapped, verbally jerking me back to reality and lifting me off the floor by the scruff of the neck at the same time.

“Not fun?” I queried in a strangely pleading voice.

Welcome Them Home, Help Them HealJohn Sippola, MDiv, has served as a parish pastor for 20 years and as a hospital chaplain for 15 years. A LTC Retired from the Minnesota Army National Guard, John served as the Family Assistance Center chaplain in Duluth, MN during the first Persian Gulf War. During that time, he helped facilitate a support group for spouses and parents, and co-led a support group for the children of deployed service members. As a hospital chaplain, he worked extensively with veterans in chemical dependency and mental health settings. From 1997-2000 John served as the Family Assistance Chaplain for the State of Minnesota. John is convinced that churches have a strategic role in promoting relational and spiritual wellbeing of returning veterans and their families. John is currently pastor of Elim Lutheran Church of Blackhoof in Barnum, Minnesota.

Create a stress safety net for your kids

You can’t prevent your kids from experiencing stress (although many “helicopter parents” try their best) but there is much you can do to help them learn to handle it.

All kids need to feel safe, secure and loved. A 35-year study that followed 87 Harvard College men into middle age found the healthiest at age 55 were those who said their parents were the most caring. The young men who said their parents were less loving, and especially those who saw their parents as unjust, were most likely to have illnesses like heart disease and hypertension by age 55.

Parents are the main anchors in children’s lives. When kids feel cared for and loved, their moment-to-to-moment stress is reduced lowering their stress hormones thereby improving immune function, setting the stage for a healthier adulthood.

So, talk to your children. Find out if they feel loved. This isn’t about buying them stuff. It’s about accepting their perceptions of their relationship with you as the truth and acting in a way that your children may experience you as fair and loving.

Just as a trapeze artist can practice new moves with more confidence and less fear knowing there is a safety net below to catch her if she falls, so, too, can children take new risks, try new stress management behaviors, when they know they have a safety net to fall back on when something goes wrong.

Build a stress safety net for the kids in your life. There are six components (adapted from my audio program “Teaching Kids how to Manage Stress):

1. Parents as role models;

2. Unconditional love;

3. Values;

4. Hope and optimism;

5. Problem-solving;

6. Personal responsibility;

If you have a mostly loving relationship with your children you can begin immediately to teach them stress management skills.

However, if you have a distant and distrustful relationship, you’ll need to concentrate on establishing a loving and trusting one first, before they will be open to you teaching them the skills that will follow in future articles. Concentrate on creating the safety net for the next months. When more trust evolves, then you can teach them how to think and how to problem solve.

We don’t normally think about teaching someone how to think. Yet your stressors begin and end with your thoughts about them. Your thoughts represent your beliefs, the underlying source of much stress. Your thoughts trigger your emotional reactions, which dictate your behavioral reactions. For example, your 15-year-old is nervous about a Spanish test. He knows he’ll do terribly (his belief). He tells himself, “I’m so stupid. I’m going to flunk this test.” (Belief/perception communicated through his thoughts.) He feels great anxiety and fear (stress emotions) and feels sick to his stomach (the fight/flight hormones wreaking havoc on his body.)

As a parent how should you handle this? Tell him how smart he is? Confirm that he does poorly in Spanish? Over the following weeks we’ll explore how you can help him handle this and many other challenges.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach.