The Value of Pets in the Caregiver Process

The caregiver process… taking care of an ill loved one… is an up and down ride minute by minute. There are good days when your loved one is coherent, not in a lot of pain, and seems to be the familiar person you’d grown up with. There are days… even moments, when you loved one is a stranger, seems to be inconsolable or even mean.

It’s often difficult to separate out the pieces of yourself and your loved one during these fluctuating times. But I’d remembered so clearly the times when something so simple as a grandchild or a pet could cause a moment of solace and glee!

I’d remembered two pets, in particular, who had brought job and love to my ill parents. One had been my dog, Oso Bear. He’d been a red-haired chow who had captured my whole family’s heart from the first moment! I actually thought I’d have to go to court to get custody of him from my Mama and Daddy (and brothers!) because everyone had wanted him!

My Mama and Daddy and I had come to an agreement that while I’d been at work, they could have Oso with them. And it had been so good for them both!

For Daddy, Oso had burrowed under his legs, waiting to be petted. Daddy, even with his Parkinson’s disease, had pet Oso with his shaky hands. But Oso hadn’t cared. He’d loved the touch and it had been great for Daddy as well!

For Mama, Oso had provided protection and security. She’d known that Oso had protected them; scaring strangers away from the door with his deep bark. If Daddy had needed help, Oso had let Mama know.

The second little miracle had come in the form of a kitten!

By that point, Daddy had passed and Mama had become the ill loved one I’d been caring for. My siblings and I had consulted with each other about getting Mama a pet. We hadn’t been sure if it would have been a dog or cat until we’d gone to the local animal shelter and looked around. There, we’d found a Siamese kitten.

I’d remembered the look on Mama’s face when we’d brought the kitten home to her. Mama’s eyes had opened wide with excitement! We’d felt the magic burst throughout the room. She’d named the kitten Milkshake and it had stayed by her side almost every moment. Mama had really loved playing and petting that cat, and it had been an experience of more smiles and mutual love!

Pets had helped us all. Besides giving unconditional love and affection to our ill loved one, we, the caregivers, had benefited as well. We’d seen our loved ones happier but also, we’d appreciated the love we’d received from those furry little angels, too!


The Best Present for Mother’s Day is Your Presence

Happy Mother's DayAs Mother’s Day approaches, my thoughts are, of course, on my mother.  

Some of us still have our mothers and will be sharing the day with them …

Others of us, will be celebrating with our memories.

While I’ll be doing the latter, I will be doing so with my family; my brothers and sisters. We have part of the day set aside to visit Mama’s grave, share moments as we remembered them, and have a meal in her honor.

My Mama had always been busy with something … my younger siblings, grandkids, Daddy … problems we’d brought home for her to solve …

But I’m reminded of an elderly family friend who had shared her longing to have her children home again. They’d all grown and had families of their own and as days passed into weeks, they visits had grown farther apart. She hadn’t wanted to bother them or complain but her heart wept for the days she could hug them in person.

Sometimes life can do this … fly by until we realize, wow, where did the time go?

This is why, this Mother’s Day, I challenge everyone with a mother still with you, to be sure and make that time … not just on this day but let it be a reminder to make time … to spend time … to make your mother a part of your important items on your life’s list.

It can be as simple as picking up the phone … take her to lunch on a regular basis … show up on a weekly basis just to say Hi, get a hug, and say you love her! Presents are always appreciated but it’s pretty likely that YOUR presence would be the very best gift you could give!