to Out on a Limb,
a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine
is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in
Care for the Caregivers
Over the past couple of months, I have come into contact with many types of caregivers. I have seen devotion, determination, dexterity and dedication. In those same caregivers, I have also seen depletion, depression, and deterioration of well-being. When those latter qualities outweigh the services rendered, we all have a problem. And yet when you ask people why they chose a certain profession with an accent on caring for others, they will often say “I love helping people.” That is not the problem. The joy gets taken out of the equation when we, as caregivers, get out of balance. Sometimes, we are the culprit. We do not always know when to say “enough” or “I need a break.” Sometimes an employer is the culprit, failing to recognize the necessity of rest and rejuvenation for prevention of burnout. And sometimes other circumstances (financial, practical, situational) play a major role.
In the last five years of my father’s life, he had quadruple bypass surgery followed by a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease in fairly advanced stages. The only caregiver he would tolerate was his wife. Each time I asked my Mom if we could talk about getting some support for her, her reply was “Gerry won’t allow it.” I could relate to my Dad’s preference, and Mom was a pretty special caregiver. However, at some point, preference must be trumped by necessity. My Mom needed more frequent respites than the scant one-hour absences in order to pick up some groceries, or take a much-needed walk on the beach with the dog. Sometimes we just cannot replenish that fast even though we try.
In a month in which we have honored our mothers on Mother’s Day (and hopefully every other day?), and recognized those who care for us when we are ill, infirm or injured via National Nurse’s Week, I wish there was a National Caregivers Month rather than just one day designated to celebrate caregivers of all stripes (celebrated on April 5th this year). Sure, the card, bouquet of beautiful flowers, or box of sweets is a nice gesture but what caregivers need most are appreciation and all kinds of permission to get their respites. The waiter who brought you a hot bowl of soup is a caregiver. The contractor who re-did work because you did not like how it was done the first time is a caregiver. The bus driver who gets you from point A to point B is a caregiver. The surgeon who saves a life, the dentist who makes a toothache disappear, the family member who cleans up after an accident by an elderly relative: no matter what type of care is given, it can be exhausting.
Until we get better at caring for the myriad caregivers in our lives, everyone’s joy is lessened. And at the risk of sounding too dramatic (who me?), lives are shortened. I know my Mom’s life was shorter due to the extent of care she provided for her father and then my father. Here’s hoping others’ lives are not shortened by their drive to do for others at their own expense.
Elegy for a Yankee
She would be mortified if I did not clarify
right from the start
that she was a New England Yankee,
not a New York Yankee
and she had the red socks to prove it.
Her death as tall as the Celtics’ Bill Russell,
as rugged as her beloved coast of Maine,
it is as if she penned New Hampshire’s
state motto, “Live Free or Die,
her last breath such an independent one.
My Mom got her respites on the beach.
Where will you get yours?
Your May 2015 Prompts for Joy
Click here for a video I wish I could have shared with my Mom. Please, please, please take the time to watch this! (Perfect timing, Jan Austin!)
Click here for a new perspective on success. (See Joy-Gram below.)
All previous Prompts for Joy (PFJs) can be found at my website, unless the video url is no longer functional.
Joy-Gram for May 2015
Okay, this will take 20 minutes of your time. I cannot recommend this TED Talk by Clay Christensen enough. I must forewarn you: he is not a dynamic speaker but if you stick it out, his message will likely bring you joy.
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·