From Frank … Caregivers need to care for themselves, too.
Updated: Sep 10
Last week I was supposed to be visiting my husband in Greenland. He was recently posted there for work, and we have been apart for some time. I was looking forward to seeing him, exploring such a fascinating country, and taking in views (like this one!).
In the end I didn’t make the trip. Mom’s recent stroke has complicated her Alzheimer’s and with the unpredictability of air travel right now I thought international travel was more than I wanted to tackle. But I was determined to take some time for myself, so I opted instead for a staycation here in Woodley Park. And it was wonderful.
Many of us know the pressures, and the pleasures, of caring for an older person – a parent, spouse, or relative who depends on our full-time attention. It’s one of the most intense, personal, and emotional expressions of love. And yet it can leave caregivers exhausted physically and drained emotionally.
Unfortunately, no one oversees the care of the caregiver. That we must do ourselves. My message to you this Labor Day weekend – if you are caring for a loved one – don’t forget to extend some of that care to yourself. Your break may not involve long distance travel – you might find the solace you need by just enjoying some “me” time.
For my time “away” I had the help of my sister and her husband who came to assist with my mother, allowing me the space to take care of myself. I saw old friends, went for leisurely walks with my dogs, weeded my garden, and enjoyed the new Hearst pool on a few sunny afternoons (which I highly recommend!). In short, I had a wonderful time relaxing and rejuvenating.
I step back into my caregiver role this week physically rested and with a fresh perspective that I know will help me better support mom. One insight I come back with: focus on what Mom can still do, rather than what she can’t.
For example, my mom doesn’t always know who I am, which can be unsettling (likely for both of us) and yet, there are still plenty of moments of joy to be had with her – like holding her hand while we watch Sheriff Taylor and Barney patrol the dangerous streets of Mayberry, watching her face light up while she enjoys her favorite ice cream, or her telling me she loves me when I tuck her into bed. I would hate to miss out on any of these rich emotional moments by focusing only on what mom can’t do.
The Village Caregiver Support Group Meets Monthly
If you’d like to gain some perspective on caregiving, or share your own, we encourage you to join our Caregiver Support group. Whether you’re a direct caregiver or one that helps in various ways from afar this monthly group is for you. Run by our case manager, Barbara Scott it is held on the first Wednesday of each month at 5pm. Our next meeting is Wednesday, September 7th at 5pm. Click here to register or call the Village office at 202-615-5853.
And whether or not you are actively caring for another, I urge you to still take time for yourself to renew and recharge. Do something that brings you joy and helps restore your perspective.
The Village has some upcoming events to consider: Lunch Bunch at Robert’s at the Omni Shoreham, a visit the National Zoo, or learn about the history of Woodley Park at the next Tuesday Talk with Village member and Woodley Park historian, Judy Waxman.
And Happy Labor Day!
Frank Finamore is Executive Director of the Village