When my dad reached the point when he could no longer negotiate stairs, it put a stop to a lot of the activities he and my mother used to enjoy. One thing my mother especially missed was a monthly potluck luncheon at their church.
One day, Mom recognized that she was in desperate need of friendship and stimulating conversation, so she decided to invite the church group to the farm for brunch. There were 24 people in all, and even though she was in very poor health herself, she had a great deal of fun planning and preparing the meal for their friends.
The big surprise came the morning of the event. She wrote to me and said, “I set up folding tables out in the yard, and Quentin was seated next to some particularly interesting people. When I looked over at him, he had the happiest look on his face. It’s an expression I used to see a lot, but it’s very infrequent now. I’ve decided I’m going to work on finding other things we can do so I can see that look again. I guess it’s sort of like the feeling a person gets playing golf. One really good shot makes you want to go back and try for it again.”
Caregivers are frequently told how important it is for them to stay engaged socially, but I think we sometimes forget how beneficial it can also be for the care receiver. After his stroke, my dad spent a great deal of time sitting in a chair with his chin on his chest, but when someone came to visit, when he went to the exercise class at the hospital, and especially when the pretty red-headed physical therapist came to the house, his demeanor changed.
As we enter the holiday season, I hope you will remember that we all benefit from connections and conversations with other people. So if you and your care receiver can’t go to the party, maybe you can figure out a way to bring the party home to you.
Elaine K. Sanchez is the author of the book, “Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver.” She is also the co-founder of CaregiverHelp.com, an online caregiver support program, and she frequently delivers keynotes, workshops and trainings at healthcare and caregiving conferences across the country. You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.