At long last we can be optimistic about being able to visit loved ones in care or residential homes. It may have been a long time coming but let’s celebrate it and enjoy the possibilities it brings for those who have been looking forward to it for so long.
Meanwhile for many carers and those they care for, there is still no respite and I know that many are exhausted and resigned to the seemingly never-ending journey through this pandemic. Don’t forget that you need to keep looking after yourself in whatever ways are possible. Your physical and emotional wellbeing continue to be critical!
My focus is almost always on you as a carer but some of what I have been reading and thinking about recently has reminded me never to forget that somewhere deep inside, the person we are caring for continues to be the same person we knew and loved when they were well. I wish I had kept this at the forefront of my mind more often when I was looking after my mum!
What matters most to all of us as individuals? I would bet that feeling loved and valued and being able to maintain our dignity are near the top of most of our lists. So, the chances are that these things still matter to those we care for. Of course we love those we are looking after, it goes without saying. But is there a difference between being loved and feeling loved? Feeling loved goes beyond knowing it. We need both to know it and feel it and if we feel loved then our life is enhanced. We feel it through things like a loving touch, the warmth of the words which are spoken, the attention which is paid to our needs, emotional as well as physical.
What about feeling valued? I feel valued when I am listened to without any judgment, I feel valued when I am asked about my concerns, I also feel valued when I am trusted to make a choice even if it is only about what I want to wear or to eat. And I feel valued when I feel needed, when my opinion is asked for and my views are listened to.
And then there is dignity. Being treated with dignity means allowing me some control over my day, for example when I get up or go to bed; it means respecting my need occasionally for privacy; it means including me in conversations and speaking to me like an adult as if I matter.
It all sounds so easy when it is typed on a page. Perhaps not everything I have written about here is possible in your caring situation. Perhaps one or two aspects are possible sometimes if not all the time. What could you do slightly differently to help the one you care for to feel loved and valued?
However, these important things are so much more difficult when our resilience is low and we are feeling tired or fragile. When our identity has transformed into being a carer more than being a wife, husband, or son or daughter it can also be very challenging to remember and act in this way. Don’t be hard on yourself especially when you are doing your best in incredibly difficult circumstances. Do try out some of what I have described. Surprisingly it might not only be the one you care for who feels better but you might feel better too.