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Elder Care: to do (and not to do)

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Today’s guest post by Carolyn Culbertson touches on a much-talked-about topic. Carolyn, a gifted speaker and writer, serves with the campus ministry of Cru in 7 states of the Greater Northwest. Her expertise focuses on helping to design student retreats and conferences, and mentoring staff and students. Here, out of her own personal life, she shares.


I am not good at caregiving. I don’t like it. I am impatient. But I am figuring some things out, and this is what I tell myself.

Do what must be done.

Not what you think could be done, or what you could do, or what they would have done when they were younger. My Mom has always been a gardener and gardeners look at their own garden with a critical eye. She still does. “There’s a gap there…I think I should take that out and plant something else…I just haven’t been able to get out there.” She is forgetting that I have spent hours and hours and hours working in her garden.  But it is not enough—and it never will be. So, I will do what must be done—and not what could be done.

Do what they can’t, not what they can.

It is painful to see Mom struggling to get up. It is easier to just make her breakfast, or bring the cup of tea (and lots of times, I do). But if she doesn’t keep getting up…she won’t be able to. Everybody needs to do what he or she can.

Do what you can.

You can’t fix this. You can’t make them happy. You can’t keep them from looking back with regrets and resentments. You can’t. You really can’t fix all their aches and pains. You cannot make their life what they—and you— remember.

Do what’s important.

I tend to bustle in and be efficient. Sometimes the important thing is not what I can get one, but listening to the same story once again.

And finally…remember the motto! “Everybody is doing the best they can with the brain damage they’ve got.”

Including me.