Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Caregiving

Hurricane Sandy presents a serious threat to the most populous corridor in America.

Combine a fast-moving hurricane with 150-mile an hour, cold, jet-stream winds and a full moon (increases the gravitational pull on waves) and you get a storm seen once in a generation.

If you live in the path of Hurricane Sandy take the necessary precautions to stay safe.

Now that you’ve been warned…try this: Look at cargiving through the same type of lens as you would a hurricane.

If you’re a reasonably intelligent person and you live in the path of a hurricane you take precautions and, if you can, travel away from the threatened area. The dopes, or the people with few resources, hunker down and try to ride it out

How often do we take the same approach to caregiving? We recognize the threats caregving poses to health, work, relationships, thought processes and sources of joy and we….(too often) hunker down and try to ride out it out instead of taking precautions and/or moving away from the bad stuff.

Like many people who live in the path of a hurricane most caregivers can’t dodge the responsibilities and just move away. What we can do is anticipate the challenges posed by caregiving to our mental and physical health and happiness and work to minimize the damage.

We all have hurricanes in our lives and, as a caregiver, I can tell you that a lot of what we encounter should be called Hurricane Caregiving. How do we face it?

***Be sure and forward this blog to a caregiver who might need it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Let'em Nap

The last two times I stopped by to see my mother at the care center she was napping.

She has gotten into a routine of getting up, eating breakfast and then going back to bed for a short nap.

The first time I sat watching her sleep and agonized over whether or not to wake her. My visits seem to mean so much to her—and me—that I didn’t want to lose even a little time that we might spend together.

Finally, I decided that while sleeping she was at peace, a state she too seldom finds while awake. So I kissed her lightly on the cheek and left a note for the aides to read to her when she awoke.

The next time I visited and she was napping it was a no-brainer. Let her sleep.

If you’re a caregiver and the responsibility makes you crazy it would be easy to slip into a habit of visiting when you know the person is napping, or in physical therapy, or eating or some other activity that allows you to tag the base, say “I was there” and move on with your day…with your life.

I’m not making judgments here, but I would suggest that if you get into that sort of habit your slackness will catch up with you in terms of your sense of responsibility and character. You’ll self-image will take a hit on the basis of skipping out.

Don’t worry when something like this happens every now and then. Don’t worry about using the situation to help you meet other responsibilities, give you some self-time or simply letting your step away to catch a break.

Just don’t use it as an excuse to duck your responsibilities. If you do you’ll end up feeling like a loser in the end…and at that point your caregiver responsibility may be over, you can’t make up for your behavior, and you’ll beat yourself up for it for years.

I’m going to see Mama today after lunch. I know she’ll be awake and, in fact, early afternoon is when some of her most challenging behaviors begin. During those times I’ve been able to calm her, help her aides and feel like I’ve really contributed to her care. A win-win-win.

Since I’ve caught a break the last couple of times I’m probably a little more up than usually and better able to weather my visit.

***If you know a caregiver, help them by forwarding this blog to them.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Future of Pottery

A headline in my local paper alerts me to a lecture this week titled, “The Future of Pottery.”

It might as well have said, “The Future of the Red Solo Cup.”

It isn’t that I don’t like pottery, I think a lot of it is beautiful….well, and a lot of it looks like a 5th grader did it in art class.

Yesterday, I went to a gathering of chess enthusiasts at a local Barnes and Noble bookstore. I like chess and, having played a lot in college, I’d like to get back into it. I’m betting some of the pottery people would have been bored to tears.

The point is that someone likes pottery and they’d be absolutely giddy about the upcoming lecture and other folks like chess and they’ll spend hours sitting quietly trying to figure out a move.

What interests you?

Very often, when you’re engulfed in caregiver craziness, you can forget those things that made your heart sing, that made you…you.

It’s so easy to lose yourself in the caregiver experience. And that can make you crazy.

I’m not saying you need hours of free time to get that, “Yeah, this is me and I’m alive! kind of feeling.”

That type of feeling fights off the crazies.

I can sit in my mother’s room and, as she sleeps, I can play chess on my iPhone. I can do it in an emergency room, waiting for Doogie Howser to come tell me what I know, that Mama has bumped her head and we should give her aspirin and put a cool compress on the bump.

What simple activities make you…you?

*** If you know a caregiver who could use a lift be sure and forward "Caregiving Can Make You Crazy" to them.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Constant, Gentle Pressure

One of the things that can make you crazy during caregiving is your contact with professional, semi-professional or other family "caregivers."

God Bless the good ones, but the lazy, uprofessional, minimal commitment...even dangerous...ones are enough to try the patience of Job.

Here's a way to keep'em from making you nuts: Constant, gentle pressure.

In legendary restauranteur Danny Meyer's bestselling book about customer service, Setting The Table, he talks about the constant, gentle pressure management style.

The concept can be used when managing some of the people who are supposed to help you in caregiving.

"Constant" means you keep after them to meet their commitments in terms of the care they are supposed to provide for your loved one. Remember, they have made commitments to a certain level of care. That doesn't mean they are supposed to care for the care recipient the same way you would care for that person. That sort of request is unrealistic.

"Gentle" means you don't lose your temper with them. You firmly help them understand, again, their commitments.

"Pressure" means you keep the pressure on in a constant, gentle way them understand...their commitments and your expectations that the commitments will be met.

Constant, gentle pressure helps you stay in control of the caregiving and of yourself.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Pearl Necklace  

 The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box.

"Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please!"

Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl's upturned face.

"A dollar ninety-five. That's almost $2.00. If you really want them, I'll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday's only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma."

As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten cents.
On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.

Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere, sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?"

"Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you."

"Then give me your pearls."

"Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess the white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She's my favorite."

"That's okay, Honey. Daddy loves you. Good night." And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.

About a week later, after the story time, Jenny's daddy asked again, "Do you love me?"

"Daddy, you know I love you."

"Then give me your pearls."

"Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my babydoll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper."

"That's okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you." And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.

"What is it, Jenny? What's the matter?"

Jenny didn't say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver,she finally said, "Here, Daddy. It's for you."

With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny's kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny.

He had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.

What are you hanging on to?
 Author Unknown
(from The School of Practical Philosophy)