When the universe throws you a bone.
Call it karma or sheer co-incidence but through a string of contacts, someone attended one of my weekend workshops and this person runs the Drop-In Centre for patients with Alzheimers & other dementias at the Cummings Centre. This program (funded by both federal and provincial governments and supported by the City of Cote Saint Luc) aims to provide stimulating programming and activities for vulnerable seniors, many of whom have been diagnosed with dementia. Programming aims to maintain and improve the social, psychological, emotional and cognitive abilities of these seniors, while also providing respite, resources and support for the caregivers of the participants.
I was asked to put together a weekly class specifically for the caregivers; a therapeutic yoga program that would help them carry the many stresses associated with the “job” of caregiving.
Universe, “are you speaking to me?”
For some reason, I find the following very difficult to say…
I too am a caregiver.
I am an only child of an aging parent. Accepting the role of caregiver is difficult for me because it means accepting the (obvious) fact that my mother is aging. It means accepting the reversal of roles that is occurring. It means accepting that I am now responsible for her well-being. Just as my children are becoming self-sufficient adults, my mother needs me much more than ever before. Truth be told, she has always needed me, a lot. However now, with her memory failing, the present moment is all she has. Thankfully, her disposition is still great, in the moment, when we are together. However out of sight, has literally become out of mind.
I don’t want to complain; but sometimes I do. I don’t want to get upset; but sometimes I do. I don’t want to lose my patience; but sometimes I do. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty; but sometimes I do.
Therapeutic yoga has taught me that anxiety can be described as “wishing things were any other way, than how they are“.
Once we accept, the weight of wishing things were otherwise, dissipates. But denial often feels better than acceptance. More than ever, I myself use the tools of the breath and mantra and movement to try and lighten that heaviness that accumulates on my chest. That sensation of not being able to breathe because someone needs you that much. Maintaining a discipline of self-care and compassionate self-talk is key. It’s not always easy and I (like any other caregiver) fall into the trap of always wanting to being there, making sure she’s happy, always, until I myself am falling from exhaustion.
The thing about caregiving is that it can become all-encompassing. It can take over your entire life. I know people who have left their jobs to care for loved ones. “Should I?” I ask myself. I am there as often as I can be, and sadly, as noted earlier, once I’m gone, it’s almost as if I hadn’t been there at all. I am missed. I am wanted. In the very next moment. There is no right way to be a caregiver. We give what we can, from the heart, provide as many joyous moments as we can, and we pray that it helps the person we love. This is the path that my mother is on, and I am there to accompany her.
Finding our”selves” – together.
Is it a co-incidence that these two major parts of my life are being thrown together in some magical way? My daily work and passion sharing yogic practices that help people manage stress & anxiety; and the personal learning that I am doing in my role as caregiver for someone I love?
Universe, “are you speaking to me?”
I have said many times before that we teach what we most need to learn. When I was first presented with this opportunity to teach caregivers stress-management and self-care tools, I said a big YES before I even knew what it would entail. It is a program that spoke to my heart. We’ve had two classes so far, with 10 caregivers in attendance. The majority are family member caregivers. Their response was amazing. Appreciation for the permission and opportunity to practice Self-care. Gratitude for the deep breaths practiced together and the chance to move and create space in their bodies. Observing where they hold onto tension. Attentive as we practiced a few mantra meditations to create space in the mind. A community of caregivers coming together to connect with one another, and reconnect to themselves. During one of the silent meditations this week, a walking meditation, one of the ladies commented afterwards “in the silence, i heard my body speaking to me…saying take care of me… this hurts…that hurts” and with tears in her eyes she continued “i’ve never heard my body speak to me so clearly.” And THAT is what therapeutic yoga teaches us. To pause. To breathe. To listen. To feel. To respond.
Caregivers can lose them”selves” in their roles. What an honour it is for me, to share these tools with this population. Offering them practices so that they can lovingly turn their attention onto themselves. Create a home practice. Offer themselves the same loving care that they offer others. I already know that I will get as much wisdom from these clients as they will from me. Perhaps more. That is the true meaning behind the word Namaste. We connect; we share; we each honour the unique spark that is within the other.