9 Ways to Take Care of Yourself When Your Mom Is Dying

Life can change in the blink of an eye. It’s a fact we all know – we just think it won’t happen to us, or it’s something that might happen… someday… but probably to someone else.

Or did you think that maybe, just maybe, the situation you saw looming in the distance would pass you by? And then — Wham!

Maybe someone else was doing the caregiving tasks and suddenly, without warning, those tasks were dumped in your lap.

Maybe you knew it was fated to be, you just didn’t think it would be like this.

I find myself sorta-living in another state, in my mom’s home, because she broke her hip and things went downhill, rolling into hospice care.

Everything is different. The kitchen gadgets are different. The herbs and spices in the kitchen cabinets are different. The grocery store is different, making the food I cook taste different – an not always in a good way. (Why isn’t honey in the same section as the other sugars?) Even the climate is different. (Oh, how very different my high Rockies climate is from the hot and humid Gulf Coast!)

Caring for an adult who can’t care for herself is a full-time job, one that I wasn’t trained for and, frankly, never expected to be doing. However, I love my mom, so here we are. We’re fortunate that my brothers and sisters love mom, too, and we’re all working together to care for her.

If you’re an introvert, or an INFJ, you’ll instinctively recognize my discomfort with all this “different-ness”. (Not familiar with the MBTI personality types? Check out Personality Junkie and take the personality quiz. It’s fun)

It would be easy to fall into the archetypal Victim mode and believe that I have no power in this situation. After all, I didn’t cause it. I’m just reacting to a situation that happened to me. (Learn about Archetypes with Stacey L. L. Couch[i] )

But is it really true that I have no power, no choice? Fortunately not. This is a path I chose to walk and therefore I have the power to change my perception, to change how I view the situation.

Being a hypnotherapist-life coach, I also have the tools to change my perception, and the knowledge that these tools actually work.

So, what can you do in a situation where you feel you have no control? Here are several ideas that’ll save your sanity.

Perception is everything

It’s all in how you think about it. If you spend your time grousing about it, then you’ll be unhappy and steadily making yourself unhappier. The strain will be hard to deal with.

The other side of that coin is to find something good about the situation and focus on that. Think about the good times, the good stuff.

The key is to keep changing your mind to think about something good, and then you’ll find yourself feeling ok more often. You’ll be better able to deal with the situation.

Rest, Sleep, Contemplation

Just about everything you read will tell you to make sure you get plenty of rest. (Here I sit, rolling my eyes.) Even though my eyes are practically looking out the back of my head from rolling so hard, I have to say it’s true. My mom sent me to my room for a nap the other day. True story, lol.

Those first two weeks were tough. I went from living alone, in a quiet home, listening to my favorite music, following my own healthy eating habits, to a noise filled environment filled with people.

And learning a new skill-set. And believe me, it’s definitely a skill. I have great respect for people who are caregivers as a trade, such as CNAs and nurses. It takes a lot of patience and putting-aside your own stuff to care for a cranky elder.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Dairy Queen had it right: Eat, drink and be merry. Yeah, it’s the end of the world looming in your face, but you’re all still live Earthlings right now.  I’m so busy either busily caregiving or napping that I don’t eat when I should, so I’m lying in bed listening to my stomach growl. I don’t know about you, but I cannot sleep when my stomach is growling loud enough to wake the dead.

In fact, I got up one afternoon and traipsed through the living room on my way to the kitchen. When I mentioned my growling stomach, my sister-in-law rolled into giggles: “I thought I heard something from down the hall.”

Another reason to eat, drink, and be merry is that eating together is something you do together, you and the one you are caring for. Those are precious minutes. It may also help your loved one eat a couple of more bites.

Get your boogie on

It’s so easy to put it off, but exercise is essential to your well-being. I went from daily yoga, tai chi, or bellydance to housework and caregiving, with very little attention left for caring for myself. Granted, housework uses a lot of calories, but I’d much rather do something I enjoy. Wouldn’t you?

So I started incorporating a few yoga flows in my evening routine, after I had mom settled for the night. I do a few of my physical therapy exercises as I’m standing around waiting for whatever is coming next. I dance along while listening to mom’s favorite music channel. I turned my self-care movement into something fun and funny that makes mom laugh as I sing along to the music.

Here’s a simple daily routine for self-care

 

  1. *When you wake-up, breathe several long breaths as you allow your mind to fully settle into your body from dreamland.
  2. *Stretch your muscles before you get out of bed. It doesn’t have to be “an official stretch” routine. Just stretch and breathe.
  3. *Drink a glass of water.
  4. *As you go through your day, use those empty moments – you know, the ones where you’re not really doing anything except worrying or thinking about what to do next – and stretch again. Move into a quick yoga flow. Turn on some music you can swing and wiggle with.
  5. *Eat. Yep, eat. Make it something healthy so that you feel good about eating it.
  6. *Drink more water. It’s a fact that when you’re dehydrated, your muscles require more energy to move. That’s one of the reasons you feel achy when you’re short on water.
  7. *Toward the end of your day, when it feels like there’s no energy left for anything else, stretch again. Another yoga flow. It’s amazing how much better I feel even when I thought I had no energy left.
  8. *Oh yeah, what about the noise? I highly recommend keeping the noise level low. Turn down the TV as often as you can. I know first-hand how difficult that can be, but there are moments when sleep happens in an elder’s day; that’s when you can reduce this particular irritant.
  9. *Listen to guided meditations. Sometimes you have only a few minutes for yourself and not enough time for a long guided meditation. Here’s a link to my downloadable 5-minute relaxing meditation audio. Listening to a guided meditation at bedtime can help you relax and sleep better.

Is it temporary?

Sometimes it’s temporary; for example, a broken bone that will mend.

If you’re providing hospice care, you know this is a temporary situation. It’s tough to know what to hope for. I simply wish for comfort for her. Everyone can use a little more comfort, right?

Apologies accepted

My mom has apologized several times for “wrecking my vacation.” Frankly, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else but caring for her, providing whatever comfort I can give, helping her through this last event, this final transition.

We’ve butted heads over the years, but none of that matters anymore. I know she did the best she knew how to do. I know that I’m independent and more than likely to go my own way. Yep, we butted heads. That’s just how it is. Life happens and every event is a lesson to learn and move on from.

I’m glad and entirely fortunate

…that this woman chose to be my mom. I can’t imagine being anywhere else during this phase of her life. It’s a privilege I cherish.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

[i] Learn about Archetypes with Stacey L. L. Couch of Wild Gratitude.  Stacey is a Spiritual Director, Certified Archetypal Consultant (CAC), Certified Shamanic Practitioner (CSP), author, and teacher at Caroline Myss’s CMED Institute.

 

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