How to find balance as primary caregiver of an elderly or sick loved one

A couple of years ago, our daughter, then 16 years old, was critically ill and spent about a month in the intensive care unit of a local hospital. Her illness was sudden and afforded us with no time to prepare. Being a registered nurse, I thought I knew what to do, but I learned some very valuable lessons about being a caregiver during that experience:

Have priesthood blessings administered to the patient and to the caregiver.- Designate someone from your ward (or work, too, if that applies) to be the person to be the clearinghouse for information. This will save time and energy and keep interested people informed. My visiting teacher took charge of this role. Many times it would take days to get a moment to call well-wishers back, or I would forget completely. Update messages daily on your answering machine for concerned friends and loved ones.

Eat three balanced nutritious meals a day even when you don't feel like eating. You need the strength to care for your loved one and need to protect your own health.

Get out every day and do something. I would go out and walk, watch the rain or sit in the sunshine. Even 10 or 15 minutes really helps. Breathe fresh air several times a day.

Try to get some rest when you can. You probably will not have a normal sleep pattern but even little cat naps will help.

Rely on the Lord and remember He is in charge. You may feel alone sometimes, but the Lord is always there. The Lord will hold you up to the task that is before you.

Ask questions of the health care professionals involved and keep asking until you understand. They are often rushed, but you have every right to understand what is going on.

Two years have passed and our lives are back to normal. Our daughter is well, and we are grateful for the lessons we have learned from the experience. The Lord does bless His people. - Carol Jones, Arroyo Grande, Calif.

What we did:

More flexibility

Two years ago, my mother called to say my father was having health problems. The diagnosis was Alzheimer's. Realizing that my father needed long-term care and that my mother's health was such that she could not give that care, my sister and I decided that I would be the primary caregiver.

To make the situation easier on all of us, we consolidated our assets. We bought a larger house that would help meet my parents needs and ours. This has freed up a lot of my time from having to run back and forth between residences. It has also given me more flexibility in that Mother can watch Dad for short periods of time when I go grocery shopping, visiting teaching, etc. We have also divided up some of the household tasks.

Daily scripture readings and prayers are a must. I need the Spirit with me now more than ever, so that I can balance the needs of my husband, my parents, other family members and my Church calling. I try to go to the temple once or twice a month. The weeks that I can't get to the temple, I try to spend doing family history research.

Dating my husband, Paul, has become more challenging. Many times our dates together are walks through the neighborhood. Several times a year my sister comes to take care of Dad so Paul and I can get away for a weekend by ourselves.

We have enjoyed getting to know members in our ward by inviting them to our home for supper. It is less confusing to Dad to have them in our home and still provides all of us with some social life. - Carol J. Hawkins, Canby, Ore.

Seek the Lord

Seek the Lord daily in prayer for His guidance and strength to endure. Listen for answers.

Attend the temple as often as possible.

Seek priesthood blessings.

Reach out to others. Don't try to do it alone.

Include family members in plans and care.

Share your feelings when you are overwhelmed. Talk it out with a family member, close friend, your bishop or a professional resource person.

Arrange for respite care and time out for yourself to unwind, rest and gain a new perspective of your situation.

Read your scriptures daily, if possible with your loved one.

Listen to hymns and other music.

Take time to count your blessings and give thanks for them.

Try to keep a positive attitude.

Hold on to your sense of humor. It can be a life saver.

Believe that with the Lord's help you will survive. - Cleo Price Mollinet, Midvale, Utah

Comfort of the Holy Ghost

My 81-year-old mother was hospitalized for the first time in 50 years, with a combination of pneumonia and weakness. After she returned home, a home health aide and physical therapist helped extended family members reinforce that she was loved and needed. Our neighbor and home teacher brought the power of the priesthood into our home; our visiting teachers brought us the love of sisterhood.

While my mother was in the hospital, I contacted an agency that provided group counseling and this gave me a much needed release as well as instruction in nutrition and physical therapy.

I have developed more closeness with my mother's nieces and nephews, who want to help retain a family link with my mother, the last living family member of her generation.

I have relied on the comfort of the Holy Ghost and silent prayer to my Father in Heaven. - Chana Cummings, Salt Lake City, Utah

Great blessing

I am 80 years old and have been able to care for my severely disabled son since his birth. I have fed, dressed, cared for his personal needs and struggled to communicate with him for 48 years.

He is joyful because he knows of my love and respect for him. He is a spiritual giant, whom the Lord has entrusted to my care. I recognize the great blessing he has been in keeping me focused on what the Lord expects of me. - Clair Robinson, Newdale, Idaho

How to checklist

1 Seek Spirit's guidance, strength; receive priesthood blessings, live gospel.

2 Take care of yourself; eat balanced meals, get rest.

3 Be prepared; learn about condition of loved one, have proper equipment.

4 Reach out; involve family members, get respite care.


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Nov. 1 "How to avoid a mid-life crisis."

Nov. 8 "How to help your marriage grow while you're in college."

Nov. 15 "How to encourage children and young people to be physically active."

Nov. 22 "How to diminish sibling rivalry."

Nov. 29 "How to enlarge your social circle, make new friends as a single member of the Church."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to get out of a rut in your career," "How to develop a healthy dating relationship," "How to help yourself or loved one overcome an abusive nature."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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