This week I’ve been visiting my own parents, who have taught me so much over the years about caregiving. Besides raising me and my two sisters, they cared for their own aging parents and took on extensive, longstanding caregiving roles for members of their church.
My dad is a graduate of Duke Divinity School and has been an Air Force chaplain, a hospital chaplain, a stockbroker, the business officer manager at a hospital, and an entrepreneur. He is a beekeeper, a singer, and a chauffeur for his grandkids who live across the street. Most recently, he is a professional caregiver.
Throughout my life my dad taught me how to make a deep personal connection with other people, so I asked him to discuss making such a connection with one’s care receiver.
Elizabeth: Dad, what do you think is the most important aspect of caregiving?
Dad: To be interested in and care about the person you are caring for.
Elizabeth: You make a key distinction between “caring about” and “caring for.” How do you show your care receivers that you care about them?
Dad: By hearing their stories, feeling what they feel, and seeing the past through their eyes. It is human nature to be interested in our own story. But when we take an interest in the other person’s story, we make a connection that moves us into a different dimension.
Elizabeth: Yes, it’s that moment that people look for in all relationships. That’s where the magic happens! How do you create that opportunity for connection?
Dad: I express an interest by saying things like “tell me about…”, “what happened?”, “how did you feel?” and reflecting back what I’ve heard. When tempted to answer with my own story, I put it aside momentarily and help them follow their own story.
Elizabeth: Your own life is a wonderful story too. Do you share it with your care receivers?
Dad: Once a connection is made, sharing my story adds richness to the relationship because both of us are participating in the giving and receiving of our life stories. My past and their past are joining hands.
Elizabeth: Thanks for sharing a small part of your story with us! Now, can we have a song?
Dad (singing): “Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me…”
You can hear dad sing by clicking this link.
Know someone who worries about their elderly parent inCharlottesville, Staunton, or Harrisonburg Virginia? Care is There Geriatric Care Management can help! Have them contact me, Elizabeth, for a free consultation: 434.326.5323ext 2 or Elizabeth@careisthere.com.
Elizabeth Swider, Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Aging in Place Specialist
President, Care is There Geriatric Care Management
Support for independent living and long distance caregiving; assisted living enhancement