Hands and Heart Together: Daily Meditations for Caregivers

Hands and Heart Together: Daily Meditations for Caregivers

by Patricia Hoolihan


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Hands and Heart Together: Daily Meditations for Caregivers provides day-at-a-time sustenance for those who are caring for loved ones. The need for daily encouragement among this population is staggering; there are over 43 million family caregivers in the U.S., according to AARP. Here is a book that is easily accessible; each short meditation illuminates an aspect of caregiving and closes with an uplifting message. Heartfelt inspiration and hands-on understanding fill these pages as well as a deep and gentle encouragement to honor both the burdens and beautiful gifts of this journey; its path provides untold opportunities for meaningful moments. Any caregiver who reads these will feel understood and invited to more fully embrace the significance of their journey - a day at a time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781513645643
Publisher: Holy Cow! Press
Publication date: 01/19/2021
Pages: 392
Sales rank: 342,665
Product dimensions: 4.50(w) x 6.50(h) x (d)
Age Range: 16 - 18 Years

About the Author

Patricia Hoolihan’s previous books include three daily meditation books: one for parents of teens, one for teen girls and one for mothers in recovery. She has also authored a book on parenting teens into adulthood and, most recently, published a memoir Storm Prayers: Retrieving and Reimagining Matters of the Soul (North Star Press). This book for caregivers is the one she wishes she had had when she was walking with her parents and other beloved family elders through their last months and years. She teaches writing at The Loft in Minneapolis and at Metropolitan State University.

Read an Excerpt

“If we approach the act of caring as though we are giving something to someone who is weaker than ourselves, we will never relate to another as a whole person.”—Kirsten DeLeo

The healthiest and most soul-satisfying avenue for being a caregiver embodies a deep respect for your loved one. Yes, maybe he or she is unable to walk in the moment or maybe they have forgotten so much of what they used to know, but inside of their hearts lives all of their previous selves. Your care honors not just who they are today but who they have been in their lifetime; your care honors the gifts you yourself have received from them over time.

This is particularly challenging for family members caring for memory loss loved ones. It’s disorienting, especially if they don’t recognize or specifically respond to you, their caregiver. I overheard a nurse say that even in such circumstances, somewhere deep in that loved one’s heart, your voice and presence is recognized. Your presence brings a familiar comfort – even if your loved one has lost the ability to respond.

No matter the wide range of responses from my loved one, I will remember that I show up to honor who she or he has been in their life time and in particular, in my life. I honor their whole person and in doing so, I acknowledge my whole history.

“…I set out to stage the perfect holiday, for just me and my mother, in her nursing home room, a contradiction in terms if I ever heard one.”—Jane Gross

If your loved one lives in your home then holidays might be more labor-intensive, but you have the gift of a home environment. For those whose loved ones live in facilities, even the most well-run and cheerful ones, those holidays can be tough. For everyone. No one wants to spend a holiday in a facility. But look around and you will find others, with quiet courage, making their best efforts for and with their loved one. You are not alone.

I remember a couple of Thanksgivings where several of my siblings showed up, where we pooled our potluck items. Strung special lights to make it look festive. Oohed and aahhed over pie. It was much easier to stay in than to take our frail mother out and so we all made the best of it. It wasn’t ideal – but we were together, trading stories, sharing some favorite memories of Thanksgivings of the past. And we carried on with the tradition of saying what we were grateful for - which all boiled down to being alive that day, together and savoring traditional and favorite treats.

Setting aside the myth of the perfect holiday, I can focus on the gift of gathering together, of life itself, and celebrating in simple ways.

“When people experience deep suffering, what helps them most of all—more than anything we can say or do—is how we are. What matters most is love…to be present and listen is often all that it takes.”—Kirsten DeLeo

There are going to be days when you are aware of the suffering of your loved one – sometimes it is physical pain or disappointing news of some sort. It is difficult to hold in one’s heart, the suffering of a loved one. Often we get caught up in thinking we need to do something or fix it. We get caught up in worrying about the right thing to say.
If anything can be done to alleviate suffering, of course, it is the right thing to set that in motion. But often, for people suffering from dis-ease or the physical crumblings due to aging, there is no fix. But know that your listening presence helps softens the edges of that hard experience. Being there, listening, can really and truly provide the healing a person needs.

Rather than seeking a miracle cure, I will honor that my presence and my ability to listen to my loved one, is a healing balm and truly, for today, makes a difference that matters.

“Real care of the sick does not begin with costly procedures but with the simple gift of affection and love….A kind heart is as valuable as medical training, because it is the source of happiness for both oneself and others.”—The Dalai Lama

When I look up definitions or synonyms for kindness the following words emerge: friendly, generous, considerate, tender, warm-hearted. This was the way I most wanted to show up for my loved one. But some days, that was hard. Some days the frazzle and sense of overwhelm and ragged edges of resentment got to me. What often helped was to pause before I opened the door, take a few deep breaths. Consciously drop the frazzle, as if leaving it in a suitcase outside the door.
And truly, leaving that suitcase full of frazzle out the door was the best thing I could do for her and for me. I was free, then for the next amount of time (hour, an afternoon), to just be with her. To practice generosity, consideration. To slow down enough to feel tenderness for her and for me, for this time together. For now, the other concerns could wait.

Real care matters and I can immerse myself in real care when I show up with concern and consideration and leave behind, at least for a time, my other worries.

“You do not have to be perfect. You do not have to be an expert. All you need to do is care enough to try.”—Kirsten DeLeo

It is easy to wonder if we are the best person for this job. Do we know enough? Understand the intricacies of the medical world enough? Do we have the emotional endurance to truly enter into this? Do we have the discernment to know what to say and do next? Are we strong enough to advocate for our loved ones needs?

But the caregiver is someone who has looked around and seen the need and felt a desire or calling to meet that need. The caregiver is most often motivated by love. Usually for the loved one or perhaps for who the loved one was in their family constellation. Or, to help out another beloved family member. The initial impulse is to be a caring person for your loved one who is in need and that will carry you all the way and teach as you go.

There is no need for me to be the “perfect” person for this job. All that I need is my desire to care for and love this person through a difficult path. That will light my way.

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