Caring for Loved Ones at Home

An Illustrated, Easy-to-Follow Guide to Short or Long-term Care 4th Edition.

8. How Children and Teenagers Can Help

Many parents presume that their younger children and teenagers should not be involved in providing physical, emotional, spiritual or information supports to loved ones at home. They think the children will either not want to or the parents may think they are protecting their children from some of the unpleasantness of providing care.

Many of today's boomer generation and their children have little or no experience caring for loved ones at home. I certainly did not. We were prevented, "for our own good," from participating in this kind of care. The result is that many of us are afraid to even try and learn and benefit from providing care.

Care has many life-affirming and life-defining opportunities built into it. Some of your fondest memories of loved ones may be of times you cared for them. Some of your greatest accomplishments will be those times when you helped someone live at home during their recovery or illness. Children and teenagers should not be prevented from experiencing some of these same joys.

Young children and teenagers can be asked what kind of help they would like to provide at home. They might help someone with their errands, answer some mail for them, read to them in bed, or make sure that neighbours and friends can come and visit. They may also be encouraged to watch as you provide physical care. They can be asked what things they might be interested in learning, such as feeding, bathing, or turning in bed. They may help getting their loved one to the bedroom or bathroom.

There are some aspects of care that may be more unpleasant for some people than for others. These may include odours, unfamiliar degrees of intimacy, and cleaning up after the person. Others may be more disturbed by new expectations of helping that will reduce their time spent with friends. Older children and teenagers may also have a heightened awareness of their own body and, therefore, may be more uncomfortable providing intimate personal care when helping their loved one. Recognizing these possible areas of discomfort make it possible for you to openly discuss everyone's concerns. In this way each individual can list those aspects of care they are most comfortable in providing and which they would prefer, if possible, that someone else do. For example, I was uncomfortable giving my mother a full-body bed bath. My father recognized this and did that part of her care. I was able to stay up throughout the night to provide support and care to my mother so that my father could get a relatively good night sleep before work the next day.

There are times, however, when one cannot pick and choose what they must do. Many of life's events have similar unpleasantnessfew of us, for example, enjoyed studying for exams, taking out the garbage or being involved in the annual spring cleaning. But even during these times, we have fond memories of studying with someone we liked very much, playing with the dog as we took the garbage out or dumping all the dirty clothes over someone's head during spring cleaning. Caring for loved ones has similar opportunities for humour, laughter and play while the serious work gets done as well. Caring for loved ones also has profound moments of awareness, thoughtfulness, intimacy and love. These should not be missed.

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Caring for Loved Ones at Home

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Copyright © 1996, 1999, 2002, 2006 Harry van Bommel

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