Special needs caregiving has always been part of my family’s life. Guided by our determined and capable mother, we cared for Dad in our home for over 2 decades after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1959. When he moved to a nursing home in the early 80s, Mom fed him supper every night. We brought his grandchildren to visit as often as possible. My father, once a gregarious and outgoing man, quickly lost the ability to walk. By the time he died in 1997, Dad couldn’t talk and required total care. Even so, he passed along some special needs caregiving lessons I treasure. This month, in honor of the 20th anniversary of his passing from this life to the next, here is the caregiving wisdom I gleaned from him.
Lesson #1: Don’t Waste Your Health
Good health is a gift from God. We are called to steward our health by eating healthy food and getting enough sleep and exercise. We are also called to use the gift of good health to make this world a better place. When I’m tempted to sit by the pool and eat bonbons, the image of my father laying in his nursing home bed for 14 years compels me to get up and get busy.
Lesson #2: Children Add Sparkle to Life
Whether my siblings and I brought friends home to play after school, or years later, when his grandchildren visited him in the nursing home, children brought sparkle to Dad’s life. We can bring sparkle too, by inviting children into our homes to visit the loved ones in our care.
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