Weather Disasters and Caregiving

Weather disasters can turn caregiving into a nightmare. Normal days are hectic, but hurricanes, floods, and blizzards push us to our limits. My #caregiving routine sank into chaos last week when #blizzard2017 struck our area,  The blizzard dumped two feet of snow here in Northeast PA. We were stranded.

weather disasters caregiving

During #WinterStormStella we had to boost the heat in the house. My mom has advanced #dementia and she’s very sensitive to the cold. On a normal day she needs at least one blanket. But she needs much more when the temperature drops below 20 degrees. We have a coal stove that heats our home well, but the coal is delivered in 50 pound bags. Besides lifting them, I have to haul out the ashes first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Coal heat is cozy but it leaves me with a nagging back ache.

Then I also had to lift my mom by myself. Our normal helpers could not get here. A small lane leads to our driveway in the woods. We share this road with several other neighbors. Together we all pay someone to plow the lane and clear our driveways. However, the plowman couldn’t get here until the main roads were cleared. It’s nearly impossible for the state crews to keep the roads open when so much snow falls so fast. Our township police declared a state of emergency and would not allow people to drive. That left me — and my mom — all alone.

Bad Weather = havoc For caregivers

During weather disasters, caregiving can be overwhelming. We did have two bits of good luck. First, I raced to the grocery store and pharmacy before the snow began. When #Stella hit, our pantry was full. I had enough supplies to keep mom clean and comfortable for several days. Second, the power lines did not break. We had electricity during the whole ordeal and I’m very thankful for this. If we lose power, we also lose water because ours is pumped up from a deep well. The pump can’t function without electricity. Caring for an incontinent person is always difficult. Take away the water supply and you’ve got a serious health risk.

Even with critical “amenities” like heat and water, I was miserable during the storm. My body ached from the loads I had to carry. The loneliness and isolation felt like extra boulders on my back. I was so happy when we were finally able to have visitors. My mom couldn’t say so but I know she felt relief, too. Though it’s now behind us, the experience has me thinking about #caregivers who lived through #Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters. I find myself wondering how caregivers in war torn countries like Syria and South Sudan manage their constant burdens. To them I send heartfelt wishes for peace and global understanding of the challenges they face on a daily basis.

 

 

Peace Among Caregivers

Peace among caregivers is rare. Some chaos is normal because we have too many duties. But there are times when #dementia takes a weird swing. We face bigger problems in those moments. Then we need tools to manage our own craziness along with our responsibilities.

Peace Among Caregivers

Fortunately some great thinkers have spent their lives seeking ways to be calm during life’s storms. The popular concept of “mindful living” is based on these practices. Although mindful living is now trendy, many ”mindful” practices were created centuries ago. Some of these — including meditation and breathing techniques — are very useful for #caregivers.

Last week I needed this kind of support. Too many aspects of my life were changing at once. I felt I was losing control of the basics. My mother continues to get weaker. We can barely hold her up when we take her to the bathroom — even with two people! The problem got worse when recent snowstorms kept helpers away from our house and I had to care for her alone. At the same time, I’ve been overseeing the renovation of Mom’s old home. Hidden leaks were ruining the kitchen and bathroom cabinets. We rent the place to get funds to help pay for my mother’s care. But we could not engage new tenants before doing extensive repairs.

It was nearly impossible to complete my professional work while managing these matters. I was losing patience with everyone. EVERYONE! An invisible enemy — something like those hidden leaks — was quietly destroying everything. Outside problems were stealing time I needed for taking care of myself. My sense of balance was going down the drain.

As I searched for ways to calm down, I stumbled on a magazine called Breathe that was sitting on my bedroom floor. In it, I found a helpful article by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who has spent his life promoting peace around the world.   He was recommended for a Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of [this prize] than this gentle monk from Vietnam.”

A Sensible Way to Regain Peace

This excerpt from #Thich Nhat Hanh’s book At Home in the World offers help for those times when you feel overwhelmed:

“There are days when you feel it’s just not your day, and that everything is going wrong. The more you try, the worse the situation becomes…That’s when it’s time to stop everything, go home, and to take refuge in yourself. The first thing to do is to close the doors and windows. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are the six windows you close when everything feels like a mess. Close everything in on order to prevent the strong wind from blowing in and making you miserable….Create a feeling of warmth, coziness, and comfort by practicing mindful breathing. Rearrange evertything — your feelings, your perceptions, your emotions — they’re all scattered everywhere; it’s a mess inside. Recognize and embrace each emotion…..tidy up everything within yourself. This will help you restore your calm and peace…We need a refuge we can always rely on, and that is the island of self…..Every time you suffer badly, and nothing seems to be going right, stop everything and go to that island right away. It may be five, ten, fifteen minutes….You will feel stronger and much better within.” 

Most #caregivers must struggle to get those few minutes alone. Fifteen minutes may be an unrealistic goal. Yet if we are serious about taking care of ourselves, we can fight for two minutes of precious time on that island of self. Sometimes that’s enough to help us find our way back to peace.