Tips for Taking Care of Someone You Love without Driving Them Nutty + Fresh Apple Cinnamon Juice

November 24, 2018 / Molly Patrick /

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Giving care to someone you love who is sick isn’t a hayride (assuming hayrides are super fun), but sometimes in life we’re called upon by someone who needs us and we have the opportunity to show up.

It might be hard – no scratch that, it WILL be hard. It might be uncomfortable. It might be sad. You might not have any idea what to do or say. And despite all that, you step up to the plate and give it all you got.

There have been a few times in my life where I’ve had to step up to the plate, adjust my jockstrap, and swing with my whole heart. I can’t adjust your jockstrap for you, but I can share some things that have helped me during my caregiving process.

Take what resonates with you, ditch the rest. Know that this is from my personal experience thus far and I fully understand that all of our situations are different. What has worked for me and my people, might not work for you and yours, but if some of my insights can help you, then batter up, my love.

1. As much as you might be tempted, don’t try to fix things or try to make everything better for the person you are caring for. You will fail, and you will piss them off in the process. Instead, hold space for them. Let them be scared. Let them be mad. Let them be sad. Be present, hold their hand, give them your full attention, and accept whatever emotions they are feeling.

This is their process, and it’s really important that you fully listen to them and acknowledge what they are going through, without judgment or trying to make it different from what it is. As Megan Devine puts it, “You can’t heal somebody’s pain by trying to take it away from them”. When you try to fix things and make things all better, it is your way of protecting YOURSELF from feeling uncomfortable and sad. But when we take care of someone who is sick, it’s not about us.

2. If you make healthy food suggestions don’t be attached to the outcome. I was taking care of my sister recently and I wanted nothing more than to make her nourishing green juice, nutrient dense soups, and antioxidant packed green smoothies. She usually loves these things, but when I was there, they did not sound good to her. She wasn’t eating a lot and when she did eat, she wanted cheese ravioli with marinara sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy from Denny’s, bean burritos from Taco Bell, and Welch’s grape juice.

So I cheered her on for eating whatever she could get down, and I happily marched my ass to Denny’s, Taco Bell and Albertsons. She was also craving Campbell’s Tomato Soup and purple Gatorade. I made my Creamy Tomato Soup for her just to see if it would nip her craving and it did. I also bought grape Recharge instead of Gatorade, and she was happy with that.

It’s cool if you can tweak things to make healthier options, but don’t be upset if they aren’t into it. Let it go and let them take the lead without punishing them for it. They have enough to deal with.

3. Taking care of yourself is non-negotiable when caring for others. This is something that I really have to be conscious about. I do an outstanding job of taking care of myself when I’m home and in my usual routine, but as soon as I’m out of my element, taking care of someone else, my self-care routine drifts to the backseat. It’s so important to take care of yourself when giving care to someone else because if you don’t, you can’t give that person your best. And people who you give care to deserve your best.

If you can manage to do 25% – 50% of what you normally do, you’re doing great. On my most recent caregiving adventure, this meant getting up much earlier than usual and doing 5 – 10 minutes of meditation instead of 20 minutes and only half of my stretch / exercise routine. It also meant eating vegan (but not necessarily WFPB), drinking a green smoothie or juice at least every other day, drinking plenty of water, eating enough food, taking a break to sit down and rest, and getting enough sleep.

Just because you can’t do 100% of what you normally do, does not mean you should do 0%. Do the best you can, even if it’s only one or two things from your regular self-care routine.

4. Do not own their pain. You can hold space for them. You can be compassionate. You can be loving. You can be empathetic. You can be caring and nurturing. You can even hold their pain momentarily. But do not take on their pain as your own. They have their pain. You have yours.

Your pain might be sparked by something they are experiencing but that doesn’t transfer their pain to you. So yes, feel your pain and be sad for their pain but, most importantly, lovingly accept that they are in pain and know that it is theirs to carry and process.

5. Save breaking down for when you are alone. When someone is sick, they feel bad enough. The last thing they need is to carry the weight of your sad feelings. They need every single ounce of their energy to go into making themselves feel better, not making you feel better.

This isn’t to say that you should hold all your feelings in or hide the fact that you’re sad and scared about what’s happening. Your person deserves honesty and it’s good to be open about how you feel, but losing your shit and having a complete meltdown in front of them isn’t helping anyone.

So yes, cry, scream, get mad, throw something if you must, but don’t do it in front of them. Save that for a solo date.

6. Don’t be shy to ask for help. I know you’re an amazing human, and even the most amazing of humans need help. When caring for someone, there is a lot to do. Not only does your person likely need your help with the day-to-day stuff, like eating, cooking and laundry, they will also need help with logistics. Paperwork, phone calls, scheduling and anything else that needs to be sorted out. It’s really hard, if not impossible, to get it all done by yourself.

So call on a friend, ask a family member, hire someone to do the grocery shopping, do what you can so you don’t burn out hard. If you burn out you will be of no help to anyone until you’re back on your feet.

7. Leave the drama at the door. When you’re giving care to someone, it is not at all the right time to moan about your problems, gossip about other people, bring up that fight the two of you had a year ago, or act like a drama queen. Your person needs you to bring your best self to the table, and acting like you’re 15 years old is NOT your best self.

So pull up those adulting panties and rise above the nonsense. You have light to shine and drama dims that light fast.

8. Laugh out loud.  There’s a lot of heaviness that comes with illness. There can be a  lot of humor too. Laughter is medicine and it’s good for everyone’s soul. I was cracking up at my sister’s dreadlock that formed after not being able to get out of bed and shower for so many days. I text pictures to my mom and my other sister and it was a constant source of entertainment and laughs. Sometimes life is shit and there’s nothing we can do about it but laugh.

Giving care to a loved one who is sick is one of the hardest things you will ever do. But, you know, this is actually a good thing because it gives you the opportunity to visit thoughts that you normally don’t have to think about and encounter feelings that you might not otherwise have. And this helps you expand and grow as a person.

Who knows, compassion might find its way into your heart. Forgiveness might show up where you least expect it. Patience might be a reliable steady that you didn’t know you had. Love might tear down walls that have been nailed shut for decades. Your perspective about life and death might twirl around and ask for a much needed dance.

When such an opportunity comes along, take a deep breath and step bravely in the direction of where you are needed. I’ll see you out on the field, my dear.

Have you given care to someone you love? Talk to me in the comments below and give me your takeaways. We’re all in this together.

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Juice

Makes one 16-ounce juice
Author: Molly Patrick of Clean Food Dirty Girl

Ingredients

  • 3 green apples, cut into quarters
  • 1 large cucumber or two smaller cucumbers
  • 1 thumb-size chunk of ginger root (no need to peel)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Instructions

  • Place the apple, cucumber and ginger through your juicer. 
  • Take the juicer container away from the juicer and add the cinnamon to the container.
  • Either stir the juice with a whisk to incorporate the cinnamon or pour the juice into your blender and give it a quick blend. 

Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with perfectly aligned jockstraps.

Xo
Molly

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Written by ex-boozer, ex-smoker, Co-founder, and CEO, Molly Patrick. They will help you eat more plants while throwing perfection down the garbage disposal.

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37 Comments

  1. Lyndsey Hafer Williams on November 24, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Thank you, Molly! I learned a lot of this while caring for three dear friends – during the 90s – as they valiantly fought a losing battle with AIDS. It was a time of deep, soul-searing, heartbreaking grief for me. This is the first time I’ve ever seen those lessons put down in words. You brought tears to my eyes and touched my heart. ♥️

  2. Tammy Snowden on November 24, 2018 at 10:54 am

    5 stars
    Between 2012-2013 I was the primary care giver for my former husband while he was in the last stages of lung cancer. After he was sent home with hospice, someone suggested the raw vegan diet. It did give him a few more months of special times with family and friends. Instead of just being confined to the bed as when he started it. The benefit came more to me. I had been in a wheelchair for 18 years. I was in 24 hour a day pain. Sure I was physically exhausted from 14 hours a day. I was mentally exhausted from watching my spouse of 20 years dying in front of me. Yet, I could clearly think instead of living in a fog from pain. I spent the next 3+ years on bed rest from a pressure sore caused by caring for him. 7 surgeries later and trying every crap diets the doctors were forcing on me to try and heal the wound. I’m actively trying to be as close to 100% WFPBNO as possible now. I just FEEL so much better.

  3. Betty Haynes on November 24, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Yes! All of this! There is so much wisdom here. I would add one more thing…

    Don’t be afraid to laugh. There can be joyful moments and laughter in the midst of pain. My sister and I had some deep and much needed belly laughs when she was dying. She told me people were afraid to smile or laugh around her and it made her sad.

    Sending you and your sister and anyone else who is going through health related pain much love.

    • Molly Patrick on November 24, 2018 at 6:20 pm

      You are absolutely right, Betty!
      I updated my post to include this. Being able to laugh together is so very important.
      xo
      Molly

  4. Jessica Atkinson on November 24, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    Thank you. I was so touched by this. I love your writing. And sincerity. I relate this to caring for my own kids. So beautiful!

  5. Jennifer Hoffman on November 24, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you for this! I’m not the caregiver. I’m actually the sick one. I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity specifically the tongue in August of this year 2018. I’ve had surgery to remove part of my tongue and lymph nodes from my neck. I’m currently starting week 3 of radiation treatments. I’ve had 9 treatments so far, and I have 24 to go.

    My husband takes me to the hospital every day Monday through Friday at 8 am for my radiation treatments. I’m starting to see side effects. I’m having mouth pain. I’m sitting here trying to eat a salad while I type. The dressing and tomatoes are causing me pain, so I go slow.

    I’m going to share this with my husband. It may be very helpful to him at this time. Peace and love.

    • Kirstie Misquez on November 25, 2018 at 12:15 am

      I hope you find relief at the end of your radiation. Thank you for sharing your truth. I’m
      Sending you love.

  6. Leigh Ann long Long on November 24, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Ironically, I found the thing that comforted my father, while losing his battle with pancreatic cancer, was when I told him how much I was going to miss him. We had all been so strong for so long, not allowing ourselves to imagine life without him. I realized one day, that he was feeling a little expendable, as if we had already starting preparing ourselves for life without him. which we honestly, probably were, after so many months. So I told him, that I would never make another decision without asking myself, what he would do. that I ache when I realize he will not know my grandchildren, but I will tell them all that he was, to me and to their daddy (which I do). He got tears and then he smiled. I just hugged him, like it was carving that feeling into my memory. Don’t be afraid to say how much they will be missed, while you have the chance.

    • Molly Patrick on November 24, 2018 at 6:21 pm

      I’m so sorry about your dad.
      This is a beautiful reminder, thank you for sharing.
      xo
      Molly

  7. Julia on November 24, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Thank you for this Molly. It is so timely for me, as I’m leaving in a couple of days to be with my youngest sister for her first chemo treatment. Her hubby will be there, but she wants one of her sisters to be there, too. I’m not good at these things (can’t even rip off a bandaid without heaving) so this will be a real challenge for me. And my sister was told that her cancer is “incurable” so we are hoping that chemo can prolong her life. We (my other sister and mom) dealing with so much shit, but I can’t imagine what she, her hubby, and kids are dealing with. Your comments will be so helpful and I will be sure to read them again when I get there to make sure I’m doing this right. Or at least as best as I can under these horrible circumstances.

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:59 pm

      I feel this so much, Julia.
      I don’t know how we do it, but when we’re needed we show up.
      Maybe it’s grace, maybe it’s courage.
      I don’t know but all I know is that you got this and you are not alone.
      Sending you and your family so much love.
      xo
      Molly

  8. Donna Goth on November 24, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    I laughed when I read the part about your sister wanting “unhealthy” food. I am a 2018 WFPB reset participant. In April, I was diagnosed with non- Hodgkins lymphoma. When I was diagnosed, one of my reactions was “If I am going to die, I’m eating pancakes.” It was one of my ways to deal with the trauma drama. After six chemo treatments my last PET scan was good news. I’ve yet to find my way back to healthier eating, but it will come. Please give my best wishes to your sister.

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:57 pm

      Hi Donna,
      I’m sending you so much love, my dear.
      Cheers to a good PET scan!!
      When you are ready to eat WFPB again, I’m ready for you.
      xo
      Molly

  9. Kirstie Misquez on November 25, 2018 at 12:30 am

    I can say with 100% honesty that you jumped right in. You did not test the water, you did not dangle your toes, you did not stay in the shallow end. Taking care of a sick family member or friend is not a temporary gig, and you are certainly honoring that. Thank you for putting it all out there. You only forgot one piece: GIVE YOURSELF A PAT ON THE BACK! I love you. I rely on you. I thank you.

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:56 pm

      Consider my back patted!
      I love you so much and you are doing an AMAZING job fighting this.
      We will get through this together, oh yes we will!
      xo
      Molly

  10. Tricia Nicoll on November 25, 2018 at 4:55 am

    Thanks Molly. Not owning or trying to fix the pain of someone you love is so fucking hard and I’m struggling, but your words are beautiful as ever and may after I’ve read them another 100 times I’ll find it easier.

    big love amazing woman

    Tricia XOX

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:54 pm

      It’s one of the hardest! I’ve had to work SO FUCKING hard on it.
      Sending you lots of love and aloha.
      xo
      Molly

  11. Kelley on November 25, 2018 at 10:23 am

    This is so well put and helpful—thank you for sharing this, and allowing this challenging experience to be of benefit to others when we may need it. ♥️

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:53 pm

      Thank you for that love, Kelley.
      MUAH!
      Molly

  12. Mary Ann Scanlon on November 25, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Thank you for putting me back on track. We had an emotional and difficult weekend we our family. I need to stop trying to make it better. I can’t do that. And I need to remember not to take the anger and frustration personally. I’m keeping this one and I’m going to reread this every time we go up to help and visit.

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:52 pm

      I hope your weekend was filled with ease and grace, Mary Ann.
      Sending you lots of love.
      xo
      Molly

  13. Sue Serpico on November 25, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Excellent advice, Molly. I’m an RN, and although I haven’t done bedside nursing in many years, I can tell you that this is totally on target for anyone acting as a caregiver, especially for a loved one. My husband had open heart surgery in Jan of this year (which is what set us on this WFPB lifestyle), and I was happy to be his primary support person through his recovery. I was just as happy to have visiting nurses and physical therapists coming in several times a week initially. Caregiving is not an easy task, although it can be amazingly rewarding, and it’s good to have back-up. I would encourage anyone acting as a caregiver to also reach out for professional help if possible. Thank you for posting this, and thank you for the wonderful work that you do, and the amazing community that you’ve fostered.

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      Thank you for your kind words and recommendation, Sue.
      You are a badass.
      xo
      Molly

  14. Colleen on November 25, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    Your post is spot on. I would also add a recommendation for a book – “My Stroke of Insight” (Jill Bolte Taylor). While the book deals specifically with a stroke victim, it has a really good checklist for family members taking care of sick people. One thing that always stuck with me from the book was the notion of patients who are sick resting in bed. Family members want to be present but often do things that unknowingly tax the patient such as keeping a TV on, keeping lights on, and loud conversation. The book highlights things we do that may have an unintended effect of depleting someone else’s energy.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      Thank you for the book recommendation, Colleen.
      It sounds like a fantastic read.
      xo
      Molly

  15. Stephanie on November 26, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Thank you for this. When my mother was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, I started flying “home” to my parents for long weekends about every 4-6 weeks. The first couple of visits, I cooked for my mom. Whatever she would eat. Once the chemo started taking it’s toll, however, I switched my tactic. I cooked and froze a ton of food, in 1-2 serving containers, for my father. She had a terminal illness, but he was the one always fighting with weight and caring for her the day-to-day. I knew he’d get my mom anything she needed, any time. He’d do the work of caring for her. I could help him do that by caring for him.

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      I love how you switched tactics and helped the situation as it changed.
      Brava, my dear.
      xo
      Molly

  16. Marina on November 26, 2018 at 10:59 am

    My father passed away from cancer on Oct. 14, 2018. The disease took him quickly, with little pain and suffering. He had been tired and losing weight in the months previous, but that was it. My siblings and I helped my mom take care of my dad at home. It was such a blessing to be home with him every Monday for six weeks. We watched a lot of TV and just hung out. I would cry when I was at home, mostly in the shower because my adult kids couldn’t hear me and I didn’t need to wipe away the tears. It was the hardest thing I had ever done to watch him slowly fade away. It took concentration to not wallow in the sadness. He didn’t want us hovering over him watching him die, so on the days I wasn’t there, I reminded myself of that. We can’t be there every second and each time I left him, I would joke that he’d better run to that light when he saw it and that we would take care of mom. I did what I could to give him peace in his final weeks and days. It was a privilege to help the man who never failed to be there for me to leave this earth with love and dignity. It was never about me, it was always about him, the family drama continues, but his wishes still lead the way.

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:46 pm

      Oh Marina, thank you for sharing this, my dear.
      I am so sorry about your sweet dad.
      My heart goes out to you and your family. It sounds like you did an amazing job helping him with his transition.
      You are a shining example of how sometimes we have to show up even when we don’t know how we will do it.
      All my love.
      Molly

  17. Kathi Sardy on November 26, 2018 at 11:20 am

    4 stars
    Thank you for this. I needed the reminder that it’s not about me while burning out for the last four months on top of my fulltime job to take care of my two elderly parents (90 and 92) after my father fell and fractured a rib. Lots of emotions arising as I am experiencing the dysfunctional and sometimes abusive sides of my parents that I experienced as a child over 50 years ago. I want to run away screaming at times when the smug, condescending and judgmental comments/insults come so easily from their lips when I am there to love and serve them with no self agenda, no reward, and little gratitude. It is indeed a thankless job, and I am a sensitive person which makes it almost impossible to not feel cut to my core. I appreciate the reminder to take more time for myself, and now that I have hired an overnight caretaker in addition to a daytime caretaker, I will not longer have to sleep on the hard cot at their home only to get up after usually five hours sleep to start my demanding day job. I can get home by 10 pm and sleep on my organic latex mattress that makes all my cares go out the window!

    In closing, I will say that your advice helps. I am reminded of my father’s pain, his frustration over not being able to be the strong, independent man that he has been his entire life – instead, turning over all power to me including making all decisions regarding his finances, his healthcare decisions and the running of his home. He is bedridden now with his fractured rib and lung disease, and completely dependent on myself and outsiders to care for him. It can’t be easy. I don’t want to be treated badly but maybe I can be more loving toward him, and love will somehow prevail. You are right about one thing, this IS the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am also caring for my mother while I am there and she is no piece of cake either. 🙂 I am pretty subservient (I considered myself a real Cinderella growing up in a family of 9), and somehow that works against me. I wish that they could see how selfless I am – I ask for nothing in return, but of course want love and respect. I will take all of your advice to heart. Thanks again.

    • Molly Patrick on November 26, 2018 at 5:31 pm

      Sending you lots of love and strength, Kathi.
      Thank you for sharing.
      xo
      Molly

      • Kathi Sardy on November 27, 2018 at 9:12 am

        Thank you Molly!

  18. Cyndi H on November 27, 2018 at 7:32 am

    Great advice! I’ve been a caregiver to my husband who had terminal cancer many years ago, and I’d like to share a gift that was given to me during that season. I called her my “third Thursday” friend. Every third Thursday of the month, she would take me out to lunch. There was one rule attached: I couldn’t talk about my husband’s treatment, pain, difficulties, etc. I could only talk about how it was impacting me, the struggles I was having, my own emotions and fears. And every third Thursday, I poured out all my junk and she listened. She did not judge, did not offer advice, did not interject her own stuff into mine. She gave me a safe haven to feel my feelings and share them out loud. I have tried many times since then to be a third Thursday friend to others during their season of caregiving, because it meant so much to me. We all know caregivers at times in our lives, and this is a thing we can do for them.

  19. Kelly Y on November 28, 2018 at 5:27 am

    We’ve been through this in my family as well. I think we also need to remember this for people who have suffered loss as well. My sister’s husband died suddenly at 53, just over a year ago (6y married). My mother always turns my sister’s loss into “that’s how I felt when I lost your dad”. But, their relationships were TOTALLY different and no one wants their own pain trivialized because now they have “joined the club”. My sister says I give her what she needs (as listed above) – room to hurt, an ear to support, a chance derailment from sorrow for a laugh. This is just how I’ve lived, to be sensitive and try to read what people need (yes, I’ve had counseling too!).

    I think for ALL of our people dealings– in daily life as well– that’s what’s missing most in society – a sensitive, supportive ear, to observe, to LEARN about people and their struggles, and to try to be the best friend, sister, daughter we can be and to selflessly give to a person what they need emotionally. Sometimes it may be just complimenting a cashier on her crazy nail polish. We all need to try to make other people’s days better. Ironically, somehow, for some reason, it makes OUR days better. But keep a special place and extra effort for the caregivers, ill people, and people needing more than your average emotional support because they need that extra tenderness. Emotionally sound people need to hold up the weaker, and, we need to look out for each other — the fact that we can RECOGNIZE all this means we are emotionally in a good spot, even if dysfunction abounds. And remember to take care of yourself! Carry on, my beautifully souled sisters. Boy, I really love this group!!!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on November 28, 2018 at 7:21 am

      Wow, Kelly! Thank you so much for adding this example as a reminder. I hope reader’s will see this added perspective, good stuff. ~Karen

  20. Lydia B Fiedler on March 7, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    I needed to read this. <3

    • Molly Patrick on March 8, 2019 at 12:36 am

      I’m so glad it found you.
      xo
      Molly

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