Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The First, and The First, and The First.....

This time last year my brother and I were thinking about our first Thanksgiving…ever…without Mama. She had passed away on October 28 and from that day forward almost everything was a First.
The First Day of Our Lives Without Mama, The First Thanksgiving, First Christmas, our First Birthdays Without Her.
This year, obviously, is not a First. But, there have been so many times during the last week or so when I’ve thought about Mama and how she loved to get ready of the holidays (although, at times it was a hassle), be with everyone and enjoy the celebrations.
If you are in our situations—your caregiver journey is over—keep remembering the good times. The more you think about them the more they become the dominant theme. Thinking about the difficult times only reinforces the negative.
If you are still a caregiver there are two thoughts I’d offer: First, there will be a time somewhere in the future in which a day, an event, a holiday will be, for you, a First. 
The very practical understanding I’d like for you to take away is there will be a day when your caregiver stresses will be over. 
I certainly realize the reality is bittersweet, but simply understanding there will be a day when your journey will end can be comforting.
Second, understand the holiday doesn’t need to be perfect. Again, I understand the thought of, “we are not going to let all this ruin the holidays” is a normal, we-all-have-it thought. 
Caregiving can be one of those life events, like having a child, that throws everything into a spin and there is a normal reaction to want at least SOME of life to be “normal”.
But, trying to make everything perfect denies the reality of the journey and puts an extra burden on, not just one group—the people who are trying to make it perfect—but, a second group—the people who think they are supposed to act (for your benefit) like nothing as changed.
So, understand that the journey won’t last forever and don’t try to make things perfect. Those two reasonably simple strategies can lower your stress level and raise your level of thankfulness; two incredibly valuable blessings during this wonderful season. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

If you know someone who might benefit from this blog, please share.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

You Have the Power

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. 

Leo Buscaglia

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Is Worrying Helping?

My devotion this morning opened with a great quote from George Washington: Worry is interest paid by those who borrow trouble.

Worry is one of the main contributors to caregiver craziness. It sucks so much energy out of us and, as I’ve noted before, energy is an exhaustible resource. You can burn out.

In fact, I have a friend who says, “Come worry with me.” Now, you and I know that both of us worrying about the same thing is twice the wasted of time. But, what she means is that she needs companionship, a connection, a feeling that she isn’t in her situation alone. I get that and that’s a good thing.

Here’s the deal, though: Whatever it is you’re worried about, the only two issues to consider are can you do something about it, or can’t you?

If you can do something about it, then do whatever your can do. Even if it’s only a little effort that gets you a tiny bit farther down the road it’s something. And, I can tell you that one something leads to another and another, and the next thing you know you’ve got a handle on that thing you were worried about. You feel more in control and the worrying tends to stop or, at least, lessen.

However, you can overdo the strategy of keeping busy. You can burn yourself out by going-going-going all the time in an effort to convince yourself that you are doing something about the situation.

If you can’t do anything about it worrying won’t help. Hmmm…you didn’t seem to be paying attention to that last line because you were thinking, “Everyone knows that.” Right.

So, here it is again, “If you can’t do anything about it worrying won’t help.” 

Does worrying make you feel better? No. Does it make you feel like you’re doing something? Sometimes.

Whatever you are worried about, either do something or understand that there’s nothing you can do and move on. In the next blog I’ll offer a really practical way to move on. 

Here’s a hint, redirect yourself.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tough Love: Listen if You Want to Be Listened To

Ran into a caregiver last week who had what—unfortunately—is the standard story; all of a sudden the responsibility is on him and his family, stress, “what do we do?!” coming up with answers a bit at the time, calling friends to ask what they’ve done to deal with the challenge.
He said, “I immediately realized how many of my friends are in the same situation. In the past when they talked about it I never heard what they said. It was just them. Now that we’re in the middle of it I’m hanging on every word of advice.”
The key part of his comment is the understanding that not only is he not the first and only caregiver, he has lots of friends in his circle who are in the same situation and can offer support.
Here’s what I see: So many caregivers isolate themselves from support. It’s out there if you look for it. But, you have to be supportive of them, too. I see lots of caregivers who, once they get someone to listen, will wear the listener OUT with tales of woe. They don’t have anyone who will listen to their issues and once they find a target…well…it’s time for the listener to pack a lunch. 
If you want to just lay out all your problems you need to find a shrink or a priest. if you have a friend who will listen understand that they are gold…and be sure you listen when they are talking. The attitude of, “Yeah, yeah, I hear ya, but your problems are not as big as mine,” won’t get you listeners, friends and supporters for very long. 
Listen if you want to be listened to.
Everyone has battles they are fighting. Theirs might be different from yours, but they are no less important.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Forecast is Cloudy With a Chance of Sunny

It’s Friday, April Fool’s Day, and, no foolin’, it’s raining like crazy outside my window. A weather front moved in from the southeast and brought some rain, hail, winds, and overall yucky weather. 
Is “yucky” a technical weather term?
On days like this, if I can’t take a nap, I want to go outside, point at the sky and say, “Now You stop that!…please.”
But, you know what, the forecast is for this weather to move away by tomorrow and the rest of the weekend should be nice
Recently, I’ve come to understand that thoughts and emotions are like the weather. They often zoom into our minds like dark clouds and can easily overwhelm us. But, they aren’t there forever. There will be a time when they’ll be gone and we’ll see life more positively.
The reality is that you can’t control what pops into your mind and heart, it just happens. And, it’s difficult to cognitively (thinking it through) force the thoughts from our minds. You remember the old trick of telling people not to think about a pink elephant? SEEEEE!!! What are you thinking about right now?
But, it’s also true that you can literally work the thoughts and feelings out of your mind.
Here’s the secret: Keep moving. Have a To-Do List, a project, a hobby, something you can get busy on. Keep your focus on the activity and you’ll find that it doesn’t take long for your mind to move away from what might be a negative, stressful thought and onto the activity.
Caregiving is a wonderful example. The worries, frustrations, and, sometimes, anger, that come with caregiving often bring a thundercloud of negative and stressful thoughts to mind. As much as you can, look at each individual activity as something you can focus on, a task you can complete, another check on your To-Do List. 
This is a great way to keep caregiving from making life—and you—crazy.
Looking out my window right now I’m seeing a shadow beside a tree. That means a ray of sunshine has to be around here somewhere to create it. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Suuuure, You Can Do It Allllll!!!!

“Be kind to yourself and don’t take on the guilt. Just do your best…and remember you can’t do it all.” Caregiver Christine H., 

I’m sure you know I’m being facetious when I say you can do it all. Christine’s thought above is the best, most basic message you can learn in your caregiver journey. 

I keep thinking that one of the things we as caregivers should do is make T-shirts, pajamas, and nightgowns for our loved ones with Christine’s quote on the front. That way, at night when we leave over to kiss them goodnight, or in a care center when we hug and kiss them goodbye, the message is one of the last things we see when we leave them.

You may think I’m over-stating this, but if you put that message somewhere near you so you see it frequently, it will become part of your conciousness.

You’ll get through this caregiving experience, even though at times it seems you won’t. But, your ability to carry on and come out the other end reasonably whole will depend on how well you care for yourself.

As my mother used to say, “You take care of you.”