In celebration of my book, Prayers of Hope for Caregivers, I’m introducing you to real-life caregivers who have served selflessly and faithfully. My prayer is that their stories and tips will encourage you in your own caregiving journey. No matter how hard or lonely the path, remember you’re not alone!
Today, meet my friend Janell…
Welcome, Janell! Who is your care recipient?
My almost-91-year-old mother
What are her physical challenges?
Currently, her greatest physical challenge is living with an ostomy bag. This past summer, June 2018, she faced a grim diagnosis of advanced diverticular disease which caused diverticular hemorrhaging. With great reluctance, a brave surgeon proceeded and as a result, my mother was left with an ostomy bag. At 90 years old, this was devastating for her.
What has been the biggest challenge in your caregiving journey?
In December 2010, my younger daughter had to undergo brain surgery. Just one year later (2011), my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor (benign meningioma) and underwent brain surgery. My journey as her caregiver began at that time. I distinctly remember sitting in the exact same Neuro ICU, thinking, “Life is shifting and is not going to be the same.”
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge was having to make the very difficult decision of moving her into an Assisted Living Facility + sell her car. To this day, she speaks of her loss of independence as the most grievous part of the aging process.
During the past nine years, I have experienced serious bouts of depression and heightened anxiety—losing myself in the constant care of my mother’s health. In counseling, we call this “enmeshment.” The boundary lines between my mother and myself completely blurred. This fatal discrepancy led to my own medical crisis, a rare esophageal disease.
What moments of joy have you experienced?
If I am totally honest and transparent, which I always try to be, this question is a really tough one. Having grown up as the youngest child in the home of an alcoholic father, I always focused on “my father’s problem,” yet this caregiving journey forced me to sit by my mother’s bedside day in and day out—revealing another perspective to my family of origin’s dysfunctional patterns and behaviors.
As hard as this was, I now see this season as a great gift from God. He wrapped joy in a million beautiful and very unexpected ways, teaching me that joy is not based on circumstances, but on waking up each and every day with eyes wide open and ears inclined to hear. With this newfound awareness, I captured moments of joy in a paramedic’s smile. A hospital custodian sharing scriptures and proclamations of faith. A surgeon sitting down next to me in the waiting room. Hospital chaplains appearing in the emergency room to give me a much-needed hug and word of encouragement. Cafeteria clerks who gave me free hot tea.
Rumi writes, “Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
What Bible verse has been most encouraging to you?
Without a doubt, Proverbs 31:25 has been my prophetic footing: “Clothed in strength and dignity, she smiles at her future.”
What practical steps or tips have helped you through caregiving?
I learned this lesson late in the game, but thankfully, I’ve learned it: Put my oxygen mask on first. Caregiving is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and has been the tool in God’s hand for helping me finally take care of myself.
What spiritual practices have been helpful for you?
Reading, studying and meditating on the words of God.
Sitting in the hospital chapel, quietly praying and “being.”
Spending time in nature, especially by the beach, if possible, beachcombing.
What would you say to another caregiver in your shoes right now?
Please, please, please take care of yourself. Don’t get lost in the labor of love. Establish healthy boundaries and reach out if you need to know how. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
Thank you for being so vulnerable and honest, Janell. There are thousands of caregivers living with guilt over their struggles right now, and your words just may free them to seek the help they need. I’m lifting you up in prayer as you continue to selflessly serve.
A national and international speaker, author, and relationship expert, Janell has a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling/Marriage and Family Specialization. In 2012, she continued her professional development and received board-certification as an Advanced Christian Life Coach (AACC). She is in private practice in Suffolk, Virginia. Janell and her husband have three grown children. Visit JanellRardon.com for more information.
Overcoming Hurtful Words: Rewrite Your Own Story
In turbulent times, where hurtful words are hurled freely, Janell’s newest book, Overcoming Hurtful Words, opens a vital conversation about the powerful threefold cord of healthy relationships: a healthy sense of self, healthy behavior patterns, and healthy communication skills. Having lived half a century, Janell is completely convinced that there is nothing more important than the relationships in our lives and the words and conversations that take place within these relationships.
Schedule a book signing/meet & greet/short reading & conversation today: www.janellrardon.com. Janell would love to work together to design an impactful, inspirational gathering and speak healing words into your community.