Tag Archives: caregiver responsibilities

Labor and Caregiving

Labor and caregiving are not the same. Sometimes #caregiving requires heavy labor — and highly valued labor must usually be done with care. In both cases, one factor changes everything: Love. We work best when we love what we do and when we view caregiving as a labor of love.

Labor and Caregiving

Unfortunately, we can’t always be at our best because the job of a #caregiver is so demanding. We are often exhausted even when things are going well. All people who labor should stop and recognize the value of their work on Labor Day.  For caregivers, however, ceasing to labor is often impossible. If we rest when there’s no one to back us up, chaos takes over.

Labor Day for Caregivers

My mother needs 24 hour care. Mom’s daily needs cannot be met without me even when she has an aide. However, I have developed certain rules for holidays. These commandments are designed to reduce my stress while I still meet ordinary responsibilities. On Labor Day I refuse to:

  • Touch the stove, except to boil water or reheat leftovers
  • Turn on the washing machine
  • Pull weeds or get anywhere near the lawn mower
  • Pay bills or look at medical paperwork of any kind

These tasks are so common, I rarely notice how much of my time they consume. Nevertheless, even while cutting myself a few small breaks, I will still have to:

  • Lift my mother in and out of bed
  • Measure out medication
  • Offer some kind of food contribution at a family barbecue
  • Be a hostess to visiting guests

I can relax a bit while fulfilling these tasks because I am determined to do only what’s necessary. I don’t have to be perfect and I refuse to be stressed. The word holiday goes out the window as soon as you get wound up about your responsibilities,

Instead, I plan to put my feet up and do a little remembering. One hundred years ago it was much more dangerous to be a U.S. worker. I’m from the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. Many people in our region died in the mines while trying to feed their families. I can only imagine what it was like to be a caregiver then: wringer washers, wood burning stoves, outhouses! I want a break from caregiving, but I don’t want to travel back in time. Despite the challenges I’m grateful to be a 21st century #caregiver with a passion for my (unpaid) job.


Yoga and Dementia Care

Today my mom can barely walk. But thirty five years ago she was a female pioneer, enrolling in yoga classes when few people knew what they were. She started doing yoga when her eldest child left home. It was a bold choice for a small town mother.

Between the Pond and the Woods

Yoga in Times Square

I’m pretty sure that Mom took yoga to quell the first pangs of empty nest syndrome. I had gone off to college and my sister — her “baby” — was already in high school. We lived in a small, traditional town in the Pennsylvania coal region. It was the kind of place where people distrusted any form of exotic behavior. Local opinion didn’t stop Mom, who went as far as visiting the ashram, while mastering downward dog and tree pose. She even met the yogi from India who founded the Kripalu retreat. Today I still wonder what prompted this strange choice from my normally conservative mother. Something about the yogic way of life appealed to her, but she’s long past the point of explaining what it was.

As a young adult I did not want to be like my mother in any way. Of course, we all end up displaying aspects of our parents’ character whether we like it or not. The one thing I did admire was her early interest in yoga and healing arts. I’ve followed her example by studying these practices for the past few years. Yesterday, I pursued that interest all the way to Times Square in New York City. To celebrate the summer solstice, I participated in a giant yoga event. About 11,000 people got down on their mats in streets that were blocked off from traffic. It’s hard to explain how amazing it felt to bend beneath a blue sky with New York neon spiraling around us, an occasional police siren disrupting our peaceful breath.

Between the Pond and the Woods

Yoga acrobats

I wish my mother could have seen it. She laughs at everything these days, but this was truly entertaining. They say the study of yoga is a journey that can change your life. When I combine that practice with the experience of caring for my mom, I begin to see life as one long phase of transformation.