Hurry, hurry, rush, rush seems to be the mantra of modern life. We are constantly rushing to work, to pick the kids up from school, to get dinner on the table; all with the incessant chorus of cell phones beeping and buzzing, demanding our attention. When a loved-one experiences an accident or experiences a major-medical problem, it is as if life is throwing a giant stop sign in our paths. But we don’t know how to slow down, much less stop.
Whether we are caring for an elderly parent with dementia or a spouse recovering from a heart attack, it can be hard to force our busy minds to match the new, slow pace at which our loved ones move. The endless hours spent caregiving are so easily filled with worry and rumination. The practice of mindfulness- learning to live in the moment- can help us savor our time with our loved ones. Research shows that the happiest people on Earth practice mindfulness. Luckily, you don’t have to be a Buddhist monk or buy special equipment to learn this practice. The whole point is to tune in to the here and now. The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment by Jay Dixit describes both the benefits of mindfulness and ways to get started much better than I am able to. http://bit.ly/Zfvnc6
Early on in my career as a caregiver, I discovered that mindfulness made my shifts seem to flow by quickly. The practice helped me capture the most joyful moments with my clients. One elderly woman I cared for had such cold hands, we spent many evenings holding hands on her couch. Rather than counting the minutes as they ticked by, I learned to enjoy the moment. I studied our hands clasped together; my young, plump hand entangled with her slender fingers, decorated with a blue web of veins. I noticed her skin gradually warm up. Just as discussed in the above link, I truly savored those moments with my client. We both found such peace in each other’s company.
I believe the practice of mindfulness makes me a much better caregiver. By focusing on the here and now, I notice things such as a pin in the carpeting or a throw rug’s upturned corner that would be easily overlooked if I were mindlessly worrying about something else. Observing my surroundings helps me keep my clients out of harm’s way. Applying that same power of observation to a client helps me detect changes in their health more quickly. Observant caregivers can spot the malaise that comes before a urinary tract infection or a bout of the flu. When working with people with dementia, noticing those little warning signs that precede an outburst helps keep things from getting out of hand. Learning to live in the moment takes practice and time to master, but the rewards are well worth the effort. With time, it becomes effortless.
~Amy Kirkeide, Comfort Keepers