Finding emotional support as a family caregiver is tough. Caregiving can be a lonely road.
It’s not that there aren’t great caregiving support groups out there. And many of us have wonderful family and friends to lean on. But sometimes you just need somebody who knows exactly how you’re feeling. Sort of like a caregiving soulmate.
We didn’t know anyone at the skilled care community when my late mother-in-law Camille moved there.
Like many care communities, Camille’s assigned each resident to a dining table for four. My husband and I tried to visit at least every other day from our home about an hour away. That’s where we met Virginia and the Browns. Virginia was a year older than my mother-in-law and wheelchair-bound. Her daughter, Connie, an only child, spent every day there during lunch and dinner. Connie’s husband Ron visited almost as often, either after work or on his days off.
Conversing with seniors who have dementia isn’t always easy, but the Browns were skilled at it. They often had Camille entertaining them with stories and jokes, and singing her favorite song, “You Are My Sunshine.” They knew exactly how to draw her out.
A few months into my mother-in-law’s time there, we arrived one day to find that the mealtime seating had been shuffled and Camille and Virginia were no longer at the same table. So we all threw a polite “fit” until everyone was back where they belonged. At least where we thought they belonged.
My personal motivation for being back at the Brown table was largely selfish. In a place where death knocked at the door so often, the Browns turned nearly every day into one big party. Sometimes that table of four had a dozen people crammed around it, roaring with laughter.
Connie and I are the same age, and I loved talking with her about family, the latest fashions, books and the newest restaurants. We rehashed the most recent episode of Hallmark’s “Cedar Cove” and sometimes were there at the care community to watch it together. Mostly, I liked the fact that I didn’t feel alone. That 50-mile drive to the care community didn’t seem so bad since I knew Connie and “our girls” were waiting for me. That’s what Connie called Camille and Virginia – “our girls.” Connie had been a family caregiver for years, and the Browns were caregiving “pros” on whom we could depend when we weren’t sure what to do.
Residents came and passed from that table of four, but Camille and Virginia were there together for nearly two years.
I arrived one afternoon to find Virginia doing poorly. I had the privilege to sit with the family a while, trying to give back some of the support and love they’d shown us. I was on the way home when Connie called to tell me Virginia was gone. Three weeks later, so was Camille.
Sometimes circumstance . . . or divine intervention . . . puts you on course to meet that person who can help you through the difficult times.
Who is your caregiving soulmate and how did you find him or her? If you don’t have one, never fear. Keep your eye out along the road.
Get helpful tips and articles like these delivered to your email.