Here's another sneak preview of the “The Caregiver Hour” April radio shows. (More info below) Here we look at “The Intentional Caregiver” topics through the MindfulCaregiving lens. Last week's topic was "The Payoff of Intentional Self-awareness".
Part 3 — The Payoff of Intentional Connection
The time will come when,
with elation you will greet yourself
arriving at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
— Derek Walcott from “Love After Love”
Connection is our life’s blood—our connection to others, and our connection to ourselves. Some would add our connection to a Higher Power. Yet, like clothes in a washing machine, the intensity of caregiving’s “agitation cycles” can weaken the connective tissue of our lives. Relationships strain. Personal time dwindles. It takes intentionality to notice what we are sacrificing. We can even become so focused on Doing actions and service for our loved one that we forget to simply Be with our loved one, but that may be a thing we can’t afford to neglect.
The burgeoning movement promoting person-centered care ("Real Care Reform") in long-term care facilities is finding that putting human connection first when caring for another actually improves the well-being and physical health of everyone, the cared-for and the caregiver. The staff of the Eden Alternative Green House nursing homes know intimately the way intentional connection combats the three plagues of loneliness, helplessness and boredom (the three plagues that cause a person to lose interest in life.) They see people who have taken to walkers, or stopped speaking, begin walking on their own and speaking again. (See YouTube on “The Green House Nursing Home Alternative”, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4Ap1ByNgKE. ) In these revolutionary nursing homes, human connection precedes and infuses the offering of medicines, baths, and especially meal times. Relationships thrive, while medical regimentation is virtually non-existent. Eden even has a program that bring the Eden principles into the home, teaching family caregivers how to create an environment for thriving. (To learn more, check out http://www.edenalt.org/eden-at-home.) (For more on "Real Care Reform" check out Eden founder Dr. Bill's blog at www.changingaging.org.)
If tending to connection with a loved one can improve the health of your loved one, what could more self-connection mean for your own well-being? Self-connection is found in the places, moments and experiences that fuel your spirit and balance your life.
If your own well-being were a priority for you, what would you do differently? Might you ask for help more often? If you are a can-do person, asking for help can actually empower you as it strengthens your connection to others. You become less alone, more flexible, your approach to life softens.
If you were to intentionally begin to notice the people, experiences and thoughts that drain your energy, and then eliminated most of these energy sinks, how much better would you feel on a daily basis? Eliminating energy sinks is a key way to rebalance your life so that it fuels you, day to day.
So take a deep breath. Intentionally focus on connecting with your loved one in ways that historically have been deeply meaningful to her/him. And in your private moments, do less of the things that drain you and more of the things that renew your spirit. Think empowering thoughts to leverage your well-being. Caregiving will be a kinder, gentler experience, a healthier time for everyone.
More about “The Caregiver Hour” Radio Show
Throughout April, the topic of “The Caregiver Hour” weekly radio show* will be “The Intentional Caregiver”. Over a series of four shows, Holly will join host Kim Linder and her guests to empower and enlighten caregivers on approaching caregiving with mindful intentionality.
“The Caregiver Hour” airs every Monday at noon EST online at http://www.thecaregiverhour.com/ or on Tampa Bay radio WHNZ Station 1250 AM