“I don’t know what to do with the parent/partner/friend/spouse I am caring for all
day long. They are still cognizant enough to know what is going on, but I really
can’t just give them a job to do , one that has any importance, unsupervised. So by
time I come up with something – I am exhausted and say forget it.”

How well I know how that feels. And when friends would say, “Tell me what I can do
to help”….coming up with something other than, come on over and bring a bottle of
wine…… 馃檪

But there are things that we can do to help care givers who have a parent or partner
at home that they are caring for and run out of ideas for things to keep them busy.
When my mom was alive and lived with me, I knew she always loved the garden. In her
heyday, she would be out in her garden at 6AM – singing with the birds…

When she was no longer able to do any gardening on her own, we started a new
tradition. Mom was the official “garden waterer.” I would take her outside, with
her walker – the kind that had the little seat when you turn it around – and get her
set, seated on the walker, lock the wheels and gave her the hose. She was outside,
got some fresh air, I could hear her singing….and every 15 minutes or so, I would
move her to a different spot in the garden , and set her up all over again. And the
dog would become part of the act. It became her job…..and she took it
seriously….and reminded me at times that she had to water…..when she could not
remember many other things. She was so well known for her “watering skills” that
neighbors knew something was wrong the first spring day and Mom was not outside with
her hose….

So, if you can find a task that the person you are caring for can do regularly,
inside or outside, with some supervision, it can give them back that feeling of
usefulness. Polish the silver, fold the lines napkins, sort socks – these are not
things that are essential tasks, but can provide the opportunity for you to work
together, OR…….this is the time to tell the friends who asks “what can I do
?”…THIS IS WHAT YOU CAN DO. I need someone to “care giver sit” for an hour today
or a half an hour every Thursday (so I can get a manicure – because as a CARE GIVER
– YOU DESERVE IT) or spend that half an hour with someone else in your household
that looks to you for love, or whose love you need to recharge your battery.

And remember, every small step is a victory, and in this world of care giving, it is
the small victories that we celebrate.

Maryellen Kernaghan
Kernaghan Associates
www.artscareus.org521 E. 6th Street #2
New York, NY 10009
908-229-3896 mobile office
Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.
-Twyla Tharp



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