Thursday, October 16, 2008

Singing at the Threshold

I recently got an email from the Threshold Choir, a wonderful singing community I used to participate in founded by Kate Munger in El Cerrito, California. Choirs have now formed in many places throughout the United States and Sussex, England and new ones are being created all the time.

What makes The Threshold Choir special is that it was specifically formed to comfort the sick and dying. Choir members learn songs in 2-4 part harmony and "perform" them (offer them) at people's bedsides. They sing in pairs or in small groups at hospices, hospitals, nursing homes, and private homes by the invitation of the family or the person's caregivers. Sometimes the family is present when they sing, and they sing as much for them as for the person who is in bed. The service is provided for free although donations are gratefully accepted.

It's a wonderful experience to be sung to like this. All Threshold Choir members get to have the experience themselves and when I was a member of the group I remember it as moving, extremely peaceful and profound.

Here's a lovely video I found on Youtube featuring members of the choir I used to sing with in Santa Cruz. I still find it inspiring work.

Monday, October 13, 2008

24 Hour Caregiving

I recently did a follow-up interview with caregiver Joan M. who took care of both of her parents until they died this past year. Joan did 24-hour caregiving for her father in the last few years of his life after deciding to take him home from the nursing home. She feels like this is one of the best decisions she ever made even though the road was rough and difficult. These are some of the insights she shared with me:

24 hour caregiving seems impossible but it IS doable if you keep several things in mind:

1. You must be committed and determined. You must know without a shadow of a doubt that come hell or high water THIS is what you are determined to do. That kind of commitment and focus unleashes energy that would otherwise be dissipated in indecision and resistance. All your creative forces can then come together and be focussed on the task at hand.

2. You must be organized. You need to create a schedule, assign tasks and be able and willing to follow through.

3. You need to have at least one other person (or more) who will take on some of the tasks and can be counted on to do what they say they will do.

4. You need to stay in the present moment so you can respond appropriately. Things change. What worked yesterday may not work today. Expect change to happen and work with it instead of trying to keep things the same.

5. Whatever services you can pay for are worth the money so don't hesitate to buy the help you need whenever possible.

One of the problems Joan experienced was anger with her sisters because they wouldn't help her with their dad. This is what she wanted to share with other readers about that :

"I realized how many times it interfered with the way I caregave at certain times. I ended up resenting my task at hand. Holding it in, getting high blood pressure to the point of a heart attack. Then being no good to anyone! I remember you telling me once "It is your choice" and I politely agreed, but really thought - NO IT'S NOT, THEY PUT IT ON ME AND I HAVE TO DO IT. That's what interfered with the free flowing energy that comes from caregiving. I didn't realize I wouldn't have had it any other way. It WAS my choice - it is who I am and what I believe in. Take away the family dynamics and old crap from the past and look into your heart of hearts and decide what you can live with. I went to the convalescent hospital to visit Dad during rehab a couple of years ago. For me that was enough, I wanted him home. I can't be mad at anyone else for not feeling like I did."

This blog was an excerpt from the book The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving. Buy it online here.