Lessons learned or relearned

Every experience brings lessons. Sometimes it’s reinforcement rather than new information. Sometimes I’m astounded at what I’ve learned and sometimes I go “holy moly is that really me?”

We had a bad auto crash in the family with severe injuries. Click here if you want to read about it. I had to step up and I did. (That is not a surprise. We do what needs to be done. Always.)

I am not a natural caretaker. I would describe me as a Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) type of caretaker. I pat you on the shoulder and say “there, there” and give you a hot beverage. That’s my preferred modus operandi. I don’t kiss boo-boos. Not even on a cat.

Recently I described myself as an “I’ll make soup but don’t make me do anything that involves body fluids” person. I don’t have a problem cleaning the cat litter box but when it comes to people, yikes! Yet we do what needs to be done.

I have a lot of respect for those folks who are the first in the hospital when it isn’t their firstborn and follow up with all sorts of appropriate things. I’m in the group that is flailing around wondering what I should do. Do they want company? Are they too ill? Gifts? Always hesitating just a bit in hopes that a miracle will happen and they will be their normal healthy self the next day. That doesn’t happen.

Another friend recently talked about “relational” people versus “transactional” people. I am definitely the latter. When I go in to the hospital, business first. I throw away the trash on the tray and organize mail from small to large envelopes. Magazines too. Then I put away the clean clothes I brought and take out the dirty. If I remember I’ll ask the person how they are doing (and ask if they need a hot beverage). Always the business first. I have a mission to accomplish and that fuels me.

Friends are updated on what they need to know. I’ll issue edicts if necessary. It’s the Mother Superior training I got in Catholic school.

Relational people are those caring people who fuss with the person and make them feel better emotionally. They also forget to take the dirty clothes so the transactional people have to clean up. (That’s my version anyway.)

Truth is you need both kinds.

My recent take-away is that I’m not going to change. I will continue to be the bossy Mother Superior that likes things taken care of so those with people skills can focus on their tasks. It takes a village for sure and that village better have all kinds of people.

NOTE: For those following my saga, my sister-in-law is in a rehabilitation facility relearning skills. She’s coming along, just slowly.

This is an 89-year-old woman who broke most of the bones in her torso 2 weeks ago. Doesn’t she look great?

 

82 thoughts on “Lessons learned or relearned

  1. Pingback: She’s back in the saddle again! | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

  2. I think if I were in bad shape I would rather have a transactional person around than a relational one. You are being a bit hard on yourself. It is wonderful how you are there for your brother and SIL. Not to mention the needy cats.
    And with this post I have caught up on March. Next time: February. If you ever start feeling that you are being stalked, let me know and I will let up. 🙂

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  3. I’m not the nurse type either, even with my kids, I did what was necessary, said a few words of comfort, a kiss on the forehead. Then my husband came in and did all the things I didn’t think of. One good thing about getting older: You realize you can’t be something you aren’t just by wanting to and you accept the way you are.

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  4. God Bless her on her recovery ~ and she’s a beautiful lady, that expression tells me she is full of spunk. I hope she has access to her makeup, I would want that, too 🙂 You’re trying to help so it doesn’t matter which camp you fall into .. just being there, clunky or not, says (and means) a lot.

    Hugs! Happy healing and Mocha Lattes to all !!

    MJ

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  5. Your SIL looks marvelous.

    John and I came to an agreement a long time ago. I would be the one in the hospital, and he would be glad to visit me. It has worked out well. In 54 years, he has spent one night in the hospital. I lost track of my stays. I’ve always rather enjoyed being in the hospital, as long as I am not in agonizing pain. Where else do people ask how you are and really want to know? There is no housework, no cooking, and no washing dishes. It always seemed like a vacation.

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  6. I think you and I fall into the same basket as caretaking goes. I never know what to say and keep busy doing things that need to be done. Even when H was in the hospital a few months ago for a procedure. I was at a loss as what my role was. As a patient I’m the same way. I’d rather not have visitors at all.
    Your SIL does look wonderful Kate!

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  7. It’s wonderful to see your Sis-i-law… she looks great. I admire her and you. You are right we do what needs to be done. I am transactional but a bit bumbling at the whole thing, usually need time to get it all figured out. It is very good news to hear she has a tentative date of two weeks to be home. I want that for her very much and for your brother and for you.

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    • I bumble too. The fact that this was my brother made it easier because I knew what he needed. Their son is flying in this week and I’m over the moon about that. It’s the best medicine she needs.

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  8. Thanks for the update, Kate. Without the context of the accident, your SIL looks great and I love her impish smile.

    You absolutely nailed it with this post. I hadn’t heard of this concept between relational and transactional people before and I too am firmly in the transactional department. I’m rather relieved by this actually because I always thought I was somewhat defective – like a deer caught in the headlights when faced with trying to comfort people. This post makes me feel normal 😉 … the world needs a balance of relational and transactional people. We make the wheels turn 🙂

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  9. She is looking great, especially for the situation she’s in! True that there need to be all kinds of people to deal with troubling situations, not just the ones dealing with feelings. I am likewise a transactional caretaker, though I did not know what that was called until reading this post. So I learned something – thank you! And you know, sometimes a hot beverage really is what is needed 😉

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  10. Your SIL looks great for 89 and for being in such pain! Tell her to keep that beautiful smile and we are praying for her full recovery.
    I hadn’t heard those 2 words before to describe types of caretakers, but they make perfect sense and you are so right, BOTH are needed I am definitely not the “transactional” kind. I wish I had some of that in me more at times, but fortunately my sisters are more that way, so we balance out when it comes to taking care of our parents. 🙂

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    • The terms are more popular in a business situation but they refer to all aspects of life. As a transactional person I do not make a good salesperson. People who can connect instantly with people (relational people) can sell the Brooklyn Bridge.

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  11. My gosh, Kate. Your SIL is 89? First of all, she’s beautiful and she looks fabulous! But more importantly, at her age to survive such a shocking and terribly destructive accident says a lot about her overall strength. Incredible. When we’re taking care of others we need the practical along with the handholding. You’re obviously very involved in the care of two people who mean a great deal to you! I’m glad to see the picture of your beautiful SIL!

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    • She’s very attractive. I want to say for her age but really for any age. When she was young, she was very pretty. She is the ultimate relational person. I have stories about her from way back that make me laugh today. In a good way.

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  12. Ahh, yes, I think you and I touched on this before. I wasn’t aware there was a name for this, “transactional” and “relational.” I thought of the two as a physical caretaker and an emotional caretaker. I’m more of the emotional/relational caretaker. Although, I’d do laundry or cleanup if someone needed it, but physically helping them to the bathroom or getting them moved into a wheelchair is where I fall short. You can imagine how it went over when the hubs was in a wheelchair after his accident (broken feet). He actually would get frustrated that he needed help, because he didn’t like being dependent. So, he found ways to move about on his own. Of course, I took care of all other duties that he absolutely couldn’t do.

    I can’t get over that your SIL is 89 years old. She really does look great for being injured. My best to her and your family. Hugs.

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    • The picture was untouched. She has wonderful skin and since she never tanned or smoked, there aren’t many wrinkles. I am transactional but limited to tasks that don’t involve the human body. I was trying to get a pillow under her back the other day and it was pretty Keystone Kops. I was terrified I would hurt her and she is very heavy dead weight to lift even just her shoulders.

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  13. Your sister-in-law’s photo looks great for someone having gone through that ordeal – seeing her looking so good has to be a comfort to your brother. It’s been years since I’ve been to a hospital and helping to fuss with a loved one – it was my mom and the nursing staff was never around – they were pretty useless actually so I did a little bit of everything and joked to my mom that next time I’d wear a white hat and maybe they’d get the hint.

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      • It’s amazing if she can go home in just two weeks’ time – they’ll be lots of physical therapy in store for her I’ll bet. Good thing the physical therapists will come to the house. I assume they do as my friend had her knee replaced and another friend had a hip replaced and the PT came right to the home for each. My mom and her room mate were not impressed with any of the shifts. Her roomie knocked a bouquet of flowers on the floor – the nurse grabbed a towel from the bathroom and swished it around with her foot, didn’t call “Housekeeping” to clean it up. OK, maybe not so bad, except they left the dirty towel there for two days. This is/was a huge hospital.

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        • In two weeks she will have been in the hospital/rehab for a total of 4 weeks and we’re not positive she will go home although that’s the plan. She has to get to a certain point of recovery or they will transfer her to a stepped down rehab unit with less critical care. She needs help transitioning from the bed to a walker. She can feed herself and needs some help getting dressed. My brother can do some stuff but he can’t lift her so that will be the key. If she can transfer, she’ll be good for home. I expect there will be home health care and PT. My brother has that now at his home.

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          • She has a long road ahead of her unfortunately. They have the pull-up bars /grab-type bars that can be installed around or above the bed to help as well. I have a high school friend who lives in South Carolina. Her husband was a long-distance truck driver for years and after their kids were raised, Margaret went to truck-driving school and joined him on the road. With two drivers they were able to drive longer hours, one slept and the other drove, and take on more loads and then they would come home for longer periods of time for R&R. One night a truck hauling logs slid on some wet pavement, and lost his load, tipping their fully-loaded truck. She was driving and was pinned as the truck leaned on her side – her husband was in the passenger side and had internal injuries, lost his spleen. Her injuries were all orthopedic – she was in the hospital, then step down and rehab for a very long time – she is recovered now, but cannot do the truck driving as it is too much sitting due to the hip injuries so she stays home like before.
            Sitting for long periods of time is difficult now. She said she often thought how long before she would be up and walking again, but the physical therapists did a wonderful job enabling her to recover the use of her limbs and restore her to her former self.

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  14. SIL’s pix is encouraging – hard to take such hits when “seasoned”, but she looks as she is responding.
    I a bit like you – the one you want in a crisis to jump in, triage, sort things out and get things back on level…a bit of observation of emotional needs of someone and a bit of attention there, but “let’s get things straightened out then we’ll chat” sort.
    Both types are needed, but…if only the other would do some of the laundry and basic stuff instead of only the tea and sympathy…we could do that – if there was time and everything that has to be done is done, right?
    Warm encouraging and healing thoughts sent to all (except cats who would scorn needing anything from lowly humans…a little head pet is OK?)

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  15. Thanks for the update. I’ve been wondering about your SIL. I’m like you, in that I’m better at helping someone understand their emotions than I am at helping someone with body problems. Transactional is a good way of explaining it.

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