Self-care – Whānau manaaki

Pae Herenga whānau participants who shared their stories commented on their own self-care, both as a whānau and as individuals. They reflected that self-care was important for ensuring that they could manage the responsibility of providing end of life care to a family member often for long periods of time and also when caregiving demanded a lot of time and energy. Gathering, and being together as whānau and supporting each other was experienced as very healing. When whānau are together, they bring their love and kindness, and they can pool their resources, including tikanga (customs), to care for an ill or dying kaumātua, and each other.

Rameka commented that when his whānau came together to care for their mother, this was also a form of caring for their whānau. Being with their whānau helped them to support and strengthen each other when their mother was māuiui (ill). Both close and extended whānau gathered to be with the kuia at the hospital:

You know that’s, that’s the one thing I’ve always relied on, and that was the biggest thing for me when, when we were at the hospital. Mum at her lowest point, had all of us nine siblings there at once… And it was an amazing feeling.

…that’s something- we had a huihui after Mum got out. We had a couple [of hui], actually, throughout the process and that was one of the things that was brought up and that. So luckily for, for us we’ve got a real strong, strong family network so ah that, that mahi there’s not a problem.

Rameka emphasised the importance of having a strong whānau support network, but he also acknowledged that not all whānau have access to the same level of support:

Yeah, you know, the biggest thing is that whānau network because it can’t be done without it. And… I honestly believe that for other whānau out there that don’t have that network, it’s really tough. It’s really tough if you don’t get that outside support… So, I’m thinking of families that might only have one or two siblings, you know what I mean… It’s tough… it’s not an easy thing.

Rameka also spoke about how their extended whānau supported their immediate whānau:

Yeah family, and extended family, like Mum when she was in hospital, it wasn’t just us there. You know, it was her extended whānau, it was her friends. One of our aunties, she came in and their other kaupapa is mātua karanga and she just blasted that in Mum’s ear and it was making us hōhā but it was making Mum happy. It’s not about us and how we’re feeling, it is about what Mum wants, you know.

Importance of self-care - Caring for whānau manaaki

Whānau manaaki who were interviewed in the Pae Herenga study spoke about the things they did to nurture and care for themselves. Sometimes when whānau find themselves in a caregiving role they can become so focused on the ill person they forget about their own self-care. Karakia, rest, relaxation and restoration activities helped to restore their energy.

When asked what she did to look after herself when she was looking after her mother in law before she died, Whaea Marilyn replied:

I think one of the things we need to remember is don’t allow the limitations of looking after a person at end-of-life make you forget your aroha for yourself as well as others. Because that can happen. It does happen. The frustrations that can set in. So, we constantly need to remind ourselves… An attitude of gratitude. Because that is an honour. It truly is an honour to be the one chosen to be with somebody at their end of life. How wonderful is that? As hard and as painful as it is, and you can let that pain go after they have gone, not while they’re going, but after they’ve gone… So, for me I was given a true blessing.

Ivy-Lee who helped to care for her father at the end of his life commented on the importance of restoring her own energy levels, particularly when there were other things she was also involved with:

And so, we [whānau manaaki], have to go and restore... you know. I get that from gardening. I have to go and… dig a garden. So, I have to go and recharge... to go back into the space again. So, [sister] and I tag... we have to tag [each other]. But I’m finding it hard to find how to recharge... because it’s a new situation. And with all the stuff happening around in the community, there’s so much happening... 

Since leaving her role as a health professional and becoming the full-time carer of her sister, Yvonne found it difficult to make time for herself, and to practice self-care. When she was working, she reflected that she was able to use the long drive home as a way of releasing the stress she had gathered during the day:

… self-care is something that’s not my strength… because I get so involved in the caring of my sister that I do forget about me… [when I was working] driving was… my time… especially as a [health professional]. It’s a 45 minute drive home… that was my time to… release. To let go, and to listen to music as my heal[ing]… Since that… has been removed, because I’m no longer doing that [work]… I haven’t replaced it. And you just talking to me, has just reminded me of that.

When Yvonne’s sister was given a life limiting diagnosis, her whānau used karakia to draw strength and they prayed that things would go well:

I look up towards [name of place], we’re on… on the cliff. So, we’re looking out to water. Moana [ocean] is my healer…, so… I do a lot of karakia when I remember; a lot of love and light… and protection…

Apart from karakia (prayers, chants, incantations) the other self-care practices that Yvonne spoke about included gardening and relaxing, looking out to the moana:

I do try [to relax], like I’ll go out into the garden, it’s just out the front. And I’ll do that. So, I get my hands into Papatūānuku, and I nurture our little veggie garden in our little [garden]… putiputi [flowers]… And in that I try to release out into the universe. I do try and mediate, I do try and… like I’ll karakia… where we live is… we look up, say [name of place], we look over that side, and we can see [name]… I look up towards [name of place], we’re on… on the cliff. So, we’re looking out to water. Moana is my healer… so… I do a lot karakia when I remember, a lot of love and light… and protection…

Coline highlighted that first of all, it is important for her to take care of herself so that she is able to care for her dad well:

Yeah… so a lot of it is looking after myself. So, wairua, the hinengaro, the tinana. I’ve got to be quite- I’ve learned because I injured my back, about 18 months ago. And the last three years Dad’s cares have gotten more physically involved for me. Oh, and emotionally and everything. Because things are hard to watch and learn.

Coline also spoke about how she recently went on a bike camp which was very beneficial for her as part of her self-care process and having some respite:

I just came back from [place]. I went down to [place] to a bike camp… we were down on a marae at [place]. Just a whānaungatanga, manaakitanga, learned how to bike safely… in a group… Oh I came back, it was just so many things. Well the physical activity, whānaungatanga. Because we have Pākehā there too, first time on a marae, that was cool. Like seeing them and that. Attempt to want to, learn about our culture and about the Samoan culture. So, I’m learning about Samoan culture too, so many things. It’s good for everything – wairua [spirt], hinengaro [mind/emotions] [and] practice my reo.

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