As featured in North Hawaii News May 19, 2015
The Senior Health Fair at North Hawaii Community Hospital on May 3 was a wonderful time to connect with many of you. One woman had me belly laughing for almost 10 minutes while presenting her humorous spin on her caregiving experiences.
In one instance, her husband had called mom long distance and she insisted he stop chopping wood and come into the house. When they went to visit her, they noticed that near her phone was a painting of a barn with a man chopping wood. They realized that mom thought the painting was a window and was calling for them to come into the house. They didn’t disrespect mom by confusing her with the facts. They just understood the next time they called why she was insisting they stop their chores and come in for dinner.
There are often many odd moments when caring for someone, and it can be very therapeutic to maintain a lighthearted perspective. Of course, we need to remember to laugh at the situation, rather than the individual, so everyone can relax with kindhearted spirits.
The toughest part of the caregiving journey in which to incorporate humor is when there are concerns that someone will pass away. When facing this final stage of caregiving, there are many conversations about what their loved one would “want.” Often times there is a lot of second-guessing and misunderstood directions about what their parent or spouse wants. This is why it is so important to be clear with those around you as to what your wishes are.
A friend of mine lost her mother unexpectedly just days before Mother’s Day. We spoke for about an hour late one night, and the thing that I was most grateful for in our conversation was that there were a few moments in which she could laugh. Knowing how her mom wanted to be buried and having firm rituals in place due to her religion left my friend devastated yet sure that she was doing what mom would have wanted.
Humor, pain, connection and loss are all part of the aging process. We get to choose to embrace them and step into the situations at hand, or isolate ourselves and struggle through it.
I encourage you to have conversations with those whom you care about that will lighten your path down the road. Use this column as a conversation starter, if it helps. You can say that this crazy gal insisted that we talk about whether you want Aunt Nettie to sing at your funeral, and if so, whether or not we should hand out ear plugs to the guests. Basically, start out with something lighthearted and move in toward the big stuff as they begin to open up. Express what you would want if you should pass away and see if that helps them open up on their end. We often do not plan to receive care from a family member; however, if our time comes we can feel better in knowing we did everything we could to assist them with their generous act of caregiving.
Friday, June 12 will bring an opportunity for you caregivers out there to feel supported along your journey. The Hawaii County Office of Aging is bringing their annual Caregiver Conference up north to the Hilton this year. Dr. Michael Cheang will help to clear up the myths vs. reality of caregiving, there will be lots of information about protecting and representing your loved one’s well being, and local Alzheimer’s expert Chris Ridley will offer tips on healthy habits to help you thrive. This event only costs $20 and includes breakfast and lunch and a wealth of information for caregivers. The afternoon portion of the event provides therapeutic activities to nurture caregivers as they reflect on their day. To register, please contact the Hawaii County Office of Aging at 323-4390.
Connecting with fellow caregivers through opportunities like this is what helps you feel less alone and more prepared to lighten up and embrace your current circumstances. It may not turn you into a comedian, like the woman at the Senior Health Fair, but it will certainly give you something to smile about.