It Takes A Village

“I must have lifted too much weight at the gym!” Bob complained to my mom. Bob was my mother’s 84-year-old husband. Every morning at 5:30am he would go to the gym, joke around with the guys, and lift weights. A bout with metastatic colon cancer had zapped a lot of his energy, but he still made it to the gym every day and walked the foothills of Southern California at least once a day.  But the pain in his shoulder persisted, and so he went to his doctor.  Turns out, the pain in his shoulder was not a pulled muscle, but untreatable bone cancer.

The two months between Bob’s diagnosis and death were filled with visits and ministrations from a diverse community of family and friends.  With both a degree in nursing and theology, I came from Virginia to California to help Mom care for Bob. My brother Paul, a financial planner from Connecticut called me before I left, “Should I go out too” he asked? “No”, I said, “I am better at the medical stuff and you are better at the financial stuff. Wait a bit, and then come help mom sort that out. Besides, you make mom laugh, and she will need that!” Part of caring for a loved one is knowing who wants to help, and what talents they bring to the table.  To learn more about how to organize your family and friends to help, see the Atlas of Caregiving website: https://atlasofcaregiving.com/put-your-family-caregiving-on-the-map/

Collaborative Care

A little more than a month after Bob’s diagnosis, Mom’s oldest sister died. “How am I going to make it to her funeral with Bob so sick?” Mom fretted. This was all just too much. Bob insisted that she go, but how could she leave him overnight and go on a 7-hour drive away?  Although Bob’s son promised to care for him, Mom knew he would need more support. She called a local California home care company and hired a caregiver to help while she was away.  Bob’s son was also supported by Craig, a friend of Bob’s from the gym. While Mom was gone, Craig took Bob for a ride in his slingshot motorcycle (see the picture!) Bob had a great time getting out in the fresh air even though it took a lot of effort to get him in and out of that motorcycle!

What our family was doing is an example of Collaborative Care. We know that most families want to care for their loved one themselves. And we know that most people want to be cared for in their own home. Yet, providing the 24/7 care that your loved one needs can tax even the most dedicated families. ACCfamily can help you fill in the blanks, either giving you a much-needed break a few hours a week or providing round the clock care should you need to leave town, as Mom did.

It’s About Showing Up

This blog makes it sound like Bob’s care was idyllic, but truth be told, some days were bleak and Mom and I felt lonely and isolated.  In today’s Gospel story (John 11:1-45), Mary and Martha feel frustrated and disappointed when it seems Jesus’ support was lacking.  Where was their friend, the one with the special grace to heal, when their brother was so sick?   If you are a caregiver, I am sure you can relate to the times you have called the doctor and had to endlessly wait for the office to respond.  So often caregivers ask for help, and that help either never shows, or dries up as caregiving becomes more and more intense.

Can you imagine the frustration Mary, Martha and the entire village feels when Jesus shows up too late to save Lazarus? Indeed, the villagers say, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”  We know that, Jesus wept, but wasn’t that a little too late?  Where was he when those closest to him were in need? So many families experience this frustration of support coming too little and too late. Of course, we know the end of the Gospel story: Jesus’ last recorded miracle was raising Lazarus from the dead.  The story teaches us that Jesus’ time is not necessarily our time, and while we may feel abandoned, this does not mean we actually are. Mary and Martha were forthright in their disappointment, and this honesty is a sign of a healthy relationship with Christ. And just as it is never too late to reach out to Jesus in our pain and suffering, it is never too late to reach out to our loved ones as well. Sometimes that reaching out is the first step to forgiveness and reconciliation. It wasn’t too late for Jesus to show up, and it’s not too late for you!

We are Here to Help

Bob and Mom experienced the blessing of collaborative care: they had a wonderful neighborhood who supported them in their suffering, family who rallied around them, a church community to pray with them, and professional Home Care services to fill in the blanks. All this compassion could not prevent Bob from dying, but support from a community of professionals and friends made the journey one of grace.

If you are caregiving, you need not feel alone and isolated.  You need the kind of support Mom and Bob found.  ACCfamily is here to be a vibrant, compassionate member of your personal care team. Give us a call if you just need a break, or require consistent, quality care for your loved one.