Tag Archives: caregiver support

Ideas to Float On: The Miracle Angle for Caregivers

During my first months as as a full-time caregiver I was incredibly sad. Instead of seeing my mom enjoy her well-deserved retirement, I watched her struggle to do simple things like write her own name. My endless tears could have cleaned the slopes of the Rockies. I longed for some sort of flotation device to keep me from drowning in  despair. That’s when I started searching for “Ideas to Float On” — creative actions I could take to help Mom and I survive our sad times.

Keep a Flotation Device Handy

One idea that caregivers can float on is called the “Miracle Angle”, a concept I learned while studying the yoga philosophies of Rod Stryker. The Miracle Angle, as described in Stryker’s book The Four Desires, is a way of identifying the helpful elements built into bad situations. If you can identify the Miracle Angle of a problem, it will help you shift your focus to the positive consequences of a situation instead of dwelling in the land of sadness.

On many occasions, adopting the Miracle Angle has kept me from sliding into depression. For example, instead of crying when Mom couldn’t recall loved ones by name, I took smiling photos of her with friends and family then stuck them on the refrigerator. If their names came up in conversation, I pointed to the pictures to remind her who they were. Later, when Mom began losing her sight, I invented activities that engaged her other senses. To buoy our spirits, I made up silly songs to sing to her while I cooked. Each tune had a simple refrain she could sing along with me. It made us both feel better.

Doing these things, helped me treasure the happy elements at the core of our relationship. The pictures gave us opportunities to remember friends in joyful situations and helped me reflect on the many ways they enriched our lives. Though I can’t remember my improvised songs, I can never forget the sound of her laughing at them.

Over time, the Miracle Angle has become a flotation device for me. Rod Stryker says, “Don’t sleep on your resentments, pain and suffering. Before going to bed each night, clear your mind and find the Miracle Angle from which to look at any circumstance that is troubling you. You may not instantly be uplifted by the change in perspective, but it will provide you with the understanding and acceptance from which you can move forward with a clearer sense of purpose.” As caregivers, taking the optimistic perspective can help us float above the waves of sadness and appreciate the fleeting, happy moments we encounter during the dementia marathon.

Fathers, Sons, and Dementia

It’s easy to forget how many fathers and sons are immersed in the dementia epidemic. The longer female lifespan gives women more time to develop dementia and, around the world, most caregivers are also female. But the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that the proportion of men serving as caregivers for spouses and other family members has doubled — from 19% to 40% –in the past 15 years.

Men in the caregiver role share many of the same burdens as their female counterparts, but their lives are complicated in different ways. For example, more male caregivers are working outside the home. A report from the National Caregivers Alliance suggests that though men and women devote about the same amount of time to caregiving, 82 percent of male caregivers hold full-time jobs, compared to 70 percent of female caregivers. Since most male caregivers are fully engaged in the paid workforce, more than two thirds of them have to request changes to their work schedule such as going in late, leaving early, or taking time off.

Their wholehearted embrace of technology gives men a small advantage: they’re more likely to use the Internet as a caregiving resource. But since they spend about 19 hours a week on caregiving activities outside of their jobs, these guys are shouldering a lot of weight.

When writing about men who give this kind of support to a wife or mother, a few stellar fellows come to mind. Their contributions as fathers, sons and caregivers add infinite value to their families. They are caring people, to be sure. But they’re also tenacious and when needed will use their horns to protect the people they love. I sincerely hope that someone made them breakfast today and provided at least one hug. Caregivers shouldn’t have to forage for food or appreciation. To the men among us: Happy Father’s Day!