Tag Archives: caregiving

Dr. Seuss’ wisdom for Caregivers

It’s one of those slow and unplanned days.

My youngest is under the weather. He was up and down most of the night.  He’s tired. I’m tired. We’ve been laying low and reading books – mainly Dr. Seuss books.

DrSeussLogoMost of us have fond memories of reading Dr. Seuss’ whimsical work, being mesmerized by his vivid images, and learning life lessons that have carried us forward into adulthood.

As caregivers go about tending to the needs of others, the same attention given to caring for themselves is often overlooked.

If a caregiver finds themselves neglecting their self-care, they should stop and revisit the life lessons of Dr. Seuss. Here are the top quotes for Dr. Seuss to help bring perspective and balance to how caregivers care for others and themselves:

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

Caregivers often fall, unknowingly, into the role of an advocate for their client. It can be detrimental to the caregiver’s overall well-being if they feel their client is being underserved. The caregiver may begin to question their voice and their ability to serve their client. In cases like this, the caregiver should decrease mental pressure, remember the power of their voice, and ask questions that increase the care their client may need and deserve.

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“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Many caregivers undervalue the impact of their work because as a society, the role of a caregiver is often under or ill-defined. Caregivers should remind themselves, daily, that their role in the life of their client (and the loved ones who love their client) counts majorly. The client relies on the caregiver to share their skills and talents in their caregiving duties. If the caregiver is to continue to provide quality care, he/she must place a high value, internally, on their own work.

“Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.”

Caregiving is extremely difficult work and can be taxing. There are serious details and a large amount of responsibility that falls to caregivers. To increase the caregiver’s awareness of tending to their own self-care – the caregiver should stay mindful and celebrate small and large accomplishments as they support their client. They should keep a fresh perspective and be able to appropriately find fun and humor in their day-to-day work.

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“Kid, you’ll move mountains.”

Even when a caregiver gets to a point when things may be overwhelming with a client or with the client’s family – they need to give themselves positive affirmations. The caregiver should remember jobs that do not receive a lot of public recognition or glory are the most important jobs. Positive self-talk is a self-care practice that can instantly impact a caregiver when he/she may be having doubts about their role.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.”

Many non-caregivers are hard pressed to understand the impact of a quality caregiver. Because of this, it becomes increasing important for caregivers to have a caregiving network that will remind the caregiver they play an integral role in the legacy of their clients. Keeping this top of mind supports the caregiver in reflecting on the value of what they bring to their clients.

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“Oh, what a day. I will make it a holiday.”

When caregivers are working hard, their caregiving days can start to blend and become a blur. To focus on self-care and enjoying time with clients, caregivers should create daily reason to celebrate. This will aid in increasing a positive energy flow and support the caregiver’s positive outlook.

 

What are your favorite Dr. Seuss-ims and how would you apply them to caregiving?

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Obscure Holiday + Scary Conversation = Pro-activity

epitaph: a brief statement commemorating or epitomizing a deceased person or something past

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Today is officially Plan Your Epitaph Day.

What, it’s not on your calendar?

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Here’s 5 reasons it should be:

During “real” holidays, people are too focused on travel, food, finances, and traditions.  Room is typically not made for serious discussions (e.g. caregiving, advanced directives, wills, etc.) that can positively or adversely affect a family.

With many people fearing end of life conversations, using this holiday as an opener for a proactive discussion can expand the fearful lens to one of reflection and celebration.

Even if the family is not in one place to celebrate Plan Your Epitaph Day, the sentiments can easily be shared using technology. This allows everyone to easily participate in a low pressure situation.

This time could be used to think about relatives who are no longer physically alive but who are living in your heart and memories. Calling relatives or getting together to celebrate deceased family members’ lives during none typical times  (e.g. high holidays, birthdays, funeral anniversary, etc.) can support a family in properly mourning (meaning – not keeping memories bottled up) and keeping joyful memories at the forefront.

Writing your own epitaph, long before you need it, could potentially motivate you to work on areas of your life that keep getting booted from your to do list. This may include tending to items on your bucket list, mending relationships with family members, collecting family history, or taking steps to improve your health and well-being.

What are your thoughts about planning your epitaph before you need it? How could this be beneficial to you and your family?

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Love Your Parents {Get over your own sh*t}

“Love your parents. We are so busy growing up, we often forgot they are also growing old.”

My friend posted that quote on Facebook today and it made me take a big pause.

Living in a multigenerational home has put the aging process at the top of my mind. I’m not talking about aging in regards to staying wrinkle free, getting a facelift or anything like that.  I’m thinking about aging in regards to how time is spent as my loved ones (husband, kids, mother-in-law, my parents) are growing and growing older.

I’ve been spending more time having conversations with my family members about their perspectives on the past, present, and future. It’s been fun and educational to write down and record their voices and lens on their individual and familiar worlds. I love seeing the intersections of my children’s realities with their grandparents. I’m trying to realign certain areas of my life to be more in-tune with them.

I’ve been talking with more caregiver experts and organizations about the aging process, and what I can expect as an adult to aging parents. I think it is unfortunate we do not talk more openly about this, as a family, when there is time to create an “aging” plan. I know there is fear in thinking about the “old years”, but there is also the difficult burden that comes when these conversations happen once crisis has set in.

My parents have been fairly open to discussing this topic with me – if I initiate it. Part of me thinks that’s because I’m an only child and they don’t want me to be in alone in caring for them  – if/when they need me to step up and in.

I get stressed a bit when I think about this topic and my mother-in-law. Hubby and I are not talking about it with my mother-in-law because she shuts us down if we try to bring it up, and hubby is not discussing it with his siblings. I’m not sure what to do about it – so I do nothing.

I’ve been noticing the natural tensions that come with generational differences. I’ve also noticed I’m not as patient as I know I should be. My children, or course, are in their own worlds and time moves so slowly in how they conduct their business. Nothing seems urgent and they often lose time in doing whatever moves them. I admire this, but I’m also challenged with slowing my own thinking because there is so much that “has to be done”.

With my parents and mother-in-law, they are also in their own worlds with time moving slowly. I hear them telling more stories from the past and fewer from the present. The way we talk about days, weeks, and months is not in sync. I’m looking beyond the current week or month. They are just focused on today – as it should be. I’m learning, daily, from them on how to stay in the moment.

My next step in my own growth…increase the quality time I spend with my children, parents, and mother-in-law – and keep my interactions based in love.

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Empowering Caregivers {interview with Gail R. Mitchell}

I was talking with a great friend about balancing work and family, having time to nurture your creative side, and how to approach the delicate subject of caring for your parents as they age.

At this moment, neither of us is in a caregiving position for our parents or in-laws, but we know that as the years go by, this topic will become our reality.

My friend was clear and very serious when she said, “My focus is and will always be on my husband and children. I do not want to think about my parents getting older or in an ailing way. I do not have that nurturing chip for older people, and I feel kinda bad about that, but I’m being honest.

Ok, that’s one approach.

I respected my friend’s honesty about being a future caregiver for her parents and I was surprised she was thinking she would be opting out of caring for them as they aged. I guess as an only child, I never thought I would have a choice whether to care for my parents, or not, when they need me to step up to that task.

My friend has two siblings and maybe she’ll put the two of them in the driver’s seat when it’s time to care for their parents.

This exchange got me to thinking about caregiving and I was fortunate to be able to discuss this topic with Gail R. Mitchell. Gail is the founder of Empowering Caregivers, as well as an artist and a fascinating lady. We had a great time discussing the topic of caregiving.

For me, talking with Gail felt like I was chatting with a close girlfriend. She was generous with her time and I learned a lot during our discussion.

What are you doing in San Miguel de Allende right now? I’m so jealous. I did some of my field work, for my graduate studies, in San Miguel. 

I’m working on ceramics.  This led me to work on Crystal Illumination art and Crystal Lumière.

Where can I see some of your artwork?

Check out my websites – Crystalilluminationart.com, crystallumiere.com or Gailrmitchell.com. For me, art is healing. I’m at the time in my life where I want to continue to heal and inspire, in addition to making a difference in ending suffering.

That sounds amazing, Gail. What made you create Empowering Caregivers?

I took care of my husband in the 80s, and two friends dying of AIDS. I began meditating to deal with the stress. I moved back to New York, from Arizona, when my father was diagnosed with cancer.

I immediately fell into the support role for both my parents, and my father was sick for two years. I used journaling to capture my thoughts. I did this every day.  In 1995, there was not enough information around caregiving. There were “how-to” books, but the direct experiences of caregiving and the various dysfunctions were not addressed in these books. This lack of resources motivated me to develop a website to support others. I wanted my site to offer spiritual, emotional, and mental support because most of the other caregiving sites had an academic focus with a lot of stats.

I founded the National Organization for Empowering Caregivers and it closed after about nine years so I could move on to a different chapter in my life.

I know Empowering Caregivers is an older site, but it does provide a warm fuzzy feel, and it is still thriving. It has seen over 12 million visitors from over 200 countries. It’s an incredible support and resource for caregivers and most of all a labor of love.

You have a lot of great information on the site, if someone is new to the site, where should they start?

Checking out the caregiving articles is a great place to start. There is a directory of areas readers can explore. The categories also help to organize the information for easy navigation.

There are excellent resources from various caregiving experts and contributors with lots of points of views. The forums are interesting. Right now, people don’t actively participate, but they are lurking and reading the information. There is a great value in reading other’s experiences to heal yourself, and to learn and grow.

Journaling can provide a space and place to release negative thoughts into the pages. The exercises are really good because caregivers are often in isolation with too much time alone to focus on negative thoughts. Many times challenging situations can be resolved via journaling. It’s extremely cathartic and allows you release your thoughts so they don’t build out of proportion.

Caregivers are afraid to reach out for support and let others know they are vulnerable. People mask their vulnerability because they don’t want to upset others. Caregiving is an emotional roller coaster and caregivers blame themselves for a lot and struggle to release control. It is ok to release and cry. Caregivers need to remember this.

Many caregivers who do reach out for support don’t receive it because people who have not been caregivers don’t know how to deal with it – or how to offer support. Most of them are in denial about helping those in need because they haven’t walked in a caregiver’s shoes. The only people who really understand are other caregivers going through it and some professionals.

The internet is a great resource to lessen isolation. It can serve as an incredible healing tool and can be a life support and life saver for caregivers. It’s important to find a community of other caregivers because people who have not been in this situation don’t want to deal with death, dying or poor health – they can’t cope.

Caregivers forget to make time and space to take care of themselves and to heal. Caregivers need support in prioritizing self-care time when they are not exhausted.

When people hear caregiver, they often think of caring for young children or older adults with failing health – help us better understand who falls into the caregiver category.

There are the sandwich caregivers – who are taking care of kids, spouse and their elderly parent. Anyone on this list can be ill – which is very difficult for sandwich caregivers.

What are you currently reading?

No time to read right now, I’m just doing research. When I do read, I’m not reading caregiver books. I’m reading books that are spiritual in nature.

I’m at the point in my life where I have the chance to reinvent myself and move on with my life. I have spent so much time in my personal and professional life focused on caregiving – it’s time for something different.

What is your 6 word memoir in regards to being an effective caregiver?

Knowledge.  Forgiveness.  Love.  Gratitude.  Mindfulness. Surrender.

Anything else to share?

It’s easier to care for others than it is to care for ourselves. If we gave ourselves 50% of the love and care – that we give to our loved ones – we’d be in much better shape.

Be open, clear, transparent, and talk about caregiving decisions as early as possible.

As a caregiver, get out of your ego as much as possible. Be clear about your needs and don’t try to predict the needs of those you are caring for.

We put such pressure on ourselves over things we do not have control over. Death will come and we don’t go a minute before it’s our time. We lose site of the spiritual side to strengthen us. We get caught up in the drama of the caregiving and forget about the compassion within this important work.

Thank you, Gail.

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Sew a Seam and Find your Peace. {guest post}

By Janet Reep Morgan

When I turned 31, I cried.  I thought I would lose my vitality and youth.  Now, as I’m knocking on 40′s door, I see age as a wonderful journey to be embraced.

I’ve been told that I’m “not quite right” and seem to have a broken brain-mouth filter.  Embarrassing myself by saying things aloud (that others think quietly to themselves) occurs less often, yet, still to an extreme my grandmother would have exclaimed, “Lawdy mercy child! Use some sense.”  At least with Twitter, Facebook and blogs I possess the ability to proofread and ponder before hitting Send or Enter.

As a child, Mama cringed when the pastor asked us children, “Are you afraid of anything?”

I exclaimed, “My Mama is afraid of rats in the chicken house. She screams like this….”

My parents rolled their eyes, shook their heads and covered their faces… for years to come.  At 28, I gained 2 teenage stepsons and quickly learned that my empty threat of “If you two don’t stop it…” backfired with their exclamation, “Mommy, Mommy don’t beat us again.” When I said, “I am not your mother…” they rolled on the ground at the Grand Canyon National Park and screamed, “that’s not what the blood tests showed… why are you treating us this way?“  Crawling under a rock seemed like the best idea.

Then and now, I learned the practice of 3 P’s: Patience, Persistence and Pharmacology.

When the boys moved out of the house, my husband and I imagined an empty nest.  Then, on February 4th, we moved my octegenarian mother-in-law in to live with us; she thinks we’re just visiting.  She and I forged a blunt, reciprocal, respectful relationship after only a few…weeks.. and I found my breaking point.  I highly recommend marriage counseling to anyone entering the caregiving process.  Taking care of another human being in addition to your marriage is a labor of love.  You must take care of yourselves and your marriage so that you can even entertain the idea of caring for another human being.

At the age of 85, my mother-in-law (aka Mother) says things that make me laugh.  I also cringe the way that my late Mama (rest her soul) must have cringed when I told her secret fear of rats during the children’s sermon so long ago.

Last week, sitting at the ophthalmologist with my mother-in-law, an armed guard led a shackled convicted felon into the exam room and Mother mumbled, “convict” and I patted her hand.  A few minutes later, I walked Mother to another exam room and the clinician said, “now, you be nice.“  Mother replied, “I’m nice.  Where do you want me to sit?

Dr. H walked into the examination room introduced himself and Mother turned on the charm.  We feared she would say something about his skin color.  Dr. H treated Mother like she was his only patient for the day.  A few hours later, after Mother settled at home with a glass of water on her favorite sofa, she said, “Those people have to be perfect.

I asked, “Which people?

Well, if they’re the ones I’m thinking of… black doctors.  They worked so hard to get to where they are, they can’t afford to make mistakes.

I replied, “Mother, did you mind seeing a black doctor?  I see a black doctor and she’s wonderful.

Mother said, “No, I don’t care what color they are.  I thought segregation was stupid in the first place.

We told her she would have to return for a follow-up visit and she said, “Never. But I guess it’s a sensible thing to do because I don’t have a death wish.

In this world, some are blessed with their own children, either biological or adopted.  I am blessed with 2 grown stepsons (yes, they made it to adulthood) and three godchildren by three different mothers and fathers. I am also blessed to care for those aging members of my family when necessary.   They become my children.  Each time I think my heart will break, a new seam is sewn by grace and I find my soul at peace.

So, the next time that you seem to be at your wits’ end by the comments of your own children, sew a seam and find your peace.

Be blessed,

Janet

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When Janet isn’t scouting the house for her mother-in-law’s teeth, the and her husband Jim entertain their two hybrid dogs… BiBi (a senior toothless Cairn-mix) and Scooby (the Maltese-rescue).  Calling North Carolina home, Janet is a full-time datagoddess and sanity-checker for many… promoter of volunteerism, upcycling and ragpicking to artwork.

All rights reserved – for publication on itsafullnest and raisedbyavillage.com

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Guilty pleasures {Tiffani Thiessen + granny nanny}

One of my [many] guilty pleasures is to read the magazine, US Weekly. Yes, I read it every week and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. I also hold my good friend, Teresa, a tiny bit responsible for this indulgence because she renews my subscription each year for my birthday. (Thanks, girl!)

I always laugh at the “Stars – They’re Just Like US!” section of the magazine because the pictures are of the rich and famous doing mundane, non-glamorous, and day-to-day stuff. I read US Weekly to be transported to the land of the rich and famous, not to see celebrities sitting at the airport, shopping at Whole Foods, totting furniture, etc.

My slight disdain of “Stars – They’re Just Like US!” came to a screeching halt when I read this online article (not from US Weekly), Tiffani Thiessen Has a Granny Nanny, Do You?

Why yes, yes I do!

It seems Tiffani Thiessen (and it’s hard from me to forgo the Amber part of her name – since Saved by the Bell. YES, dating myself!) enlisted the help and support of her own mother, as a granny nanny, for the same reasons I have my mother-in-law living with us.

I didn’t want to be an insane parent and feel stretched all the time. I wanted to continue to grow my career and make sure my children were well taken care of. I knew I needed additional help with childcare due to my husband’s intense work schedule. My husband turned out well (with the exception of his socks never making it into the laundry basket) and my mother-in-law raised him – so that’s a definite plus in having her as a granny nanny.

The article goes on to reference the downturn in the economy, foster care, and various challenges that go into grandparents moving into the role of caregivers of grandchildren. I especially liked the mention of discipline vs. spoiling of children. I know all too well how that can be a challenge.

In my experience of having a granny nanny, here are the top things to consider:

  1. Know what type of parent you want to be and be OK with that
  2. Express this parenting style to your granny nanny (or granny manny) and actively listen to what he/she has to say
  3. Put all potential conflicts (based on #2) on the table and discuss them openly. You may need a coach or mediator to help with this.
  4. Decide, as a team, on core caregiving philosophies or techniques. Decide which are negotiable and non-negotiable.
  5. Have a  team meeting at least once a month to do a check-in. You want to make sure communication stays open and clear.
  6. Love and forgive each other – because we are all trying hard at raising happy, healthy, and thriving kids.

The most important take away, in my opinion, is when Julie Ryan Evans wrote,

“As unique as each family is, so is each grandparent’s relationship with their grandchildren. The most important for any of them, however, is open communication and a commitment to work together to do what’s best for the children regardless of any situation.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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