Monday, November 10, 2014

Two Uncomfortable Truths

Ok, so the C in CRAZY is Caring.

The R in CRAZY is Reality. The reality is that there are two truths about caregiving—the first you’ll only hear in whispers—that should be the foundation of your experience. First, it’s OK to not like caregiving. You certainly care about the person for whom you are caring; you may even love them. But, you don’t have to like all the caring activities for which you are responsible. In fact, it may not be too strong a statement to say that you detest some of your responsibilities. The fact that you don’t like some of the activities does not say anything less-than-positive about you. It’s OK. No one likes everything they have to do as a caregiver and it’s OK say so…to your inner circle. Complaining about your responsibilities to anyone who will seem to listen can assure that sooner or later few people will be there to listen.

Second, it’s OK to not know everything. No one does, not even professional caregivers. One of the maddening aspects of caregiving is that you can ask the same question of 3 professional caregivers/lawyers/counselors and you’ll often get 3 different answers. The solution is to ask more questions. Get as much information as you can and make informed decisions. The bottom line of the caregiving experience is this: As long as your caree is safe everything else is a bonus. So, get as much information as you can, make good decisions and do it your way.

Again, caregiving can be an experience that broadens and deepens your life in ways you can’t imagine. Or, it can be an experience that steals the life you have, shrinks your world and turns you into a negative person you never meant to be.

Respect yourself enough to admit that you may not like everything about the experience caregiving has brought into your life. Be aware enough to know that you can’t know everything and ask better questions.

In fact, the next time you’re talking with another caregiver lean forward and whisper, “What do you really think about caregiving?”

Their answer may surprise—and comfort—you.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Zombie Caregivers

The zombie craze has hit me in a different way than you might think. Whenever I see a shot of zombies I think of some of the caregivers I've seen. They have that hollow, burned out, life-as-I-knew-it-is-over look in their eyes.

When I talk about caregiving making you CRAZY that look, that feeling, is part of what I'm talking about. You don't have to be told that caregiving can make you CRAZY, can turn you into a zombie, you already know it.

But, CRAZY means more than you might think.

The C in CRAZY stands for Care.

You have to Care for yourself or you won't be able to take care of others. You'll burn out and either there won't be anyone to care for the caree or you'll end up caring for them in a zombie state.

What do you need to make sure you do for yourself? Make sure you take your meds, drink more water, get a little exercise, rest as often as possible, ask for help. There are a wide range of ways you can care for yourself.

I get the fact that you love the person for whom you care caring, but focusing all-in on them and forgetting that you need care, too, is waaaay beyond being's negligent.

You take care of you.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Catch'em Doing Something Right!

Here are two things that REALLY make us crazy as caregivers:

One, feeling like we are doing it all ourselves. Two, feeling that even when other folks do try to help they are doing whatever it is that needs doing wrong.

Want more help? Want more help doing it right?

Catch'em when they are doing something right and thank them or brag on them. Catching people doing things right is the best way to get more help and get more help doing things right.

Too often we believe the help has to come in the way we would give it. Unfortunately, not everyone is a mind reader nor do they believe the job has to be done the way we think it's supposed to be done.

As long as the caree is safe, everything else is a bonus. Let folks help in the way they want to help, pat'em on the back and thank them and then slowly guide them into doing it the way you want it done.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Doing a "Got It Done" Journal

One of the areas in which caregiving will flat-out make you crazy is memory. I've written in the past about the research that came out last year, "The Myth of Cognitive Decline." The researchers say that as we age and get more of what we think is forgetful, we're really not forgetful, it's simply a case of our brains getting more full and we have to sift through all the info to get what we want.

The more I've thought about the research the more the impact of caregiving craziness hits me right between the...frontal lobes. 

So, I've recently started a “Got It Done” Journal. When I get things done during the day I write them down.

If you ever have one of those days when it seems like nothing is going right and you’re spinning your wheels the Got It Done Journal is a great way to look back and see that you DID get some constructive things done.

I list caregiving duties fulfilled, emails sent, things bought, personal tasks completed and  meetings held.

If you’re operating at a fast pace it’s easy to forget you made an important phone call, scheduled or didn’t schedule a meeting or accomplished a task you had planned.

If you’re doing a To-Do List you can look to see if the item is crossed off, but I’m increasingly liking the Got It Done Journal because I’m writing notes and doodling ideas about some of the issues and looking ahead to how they might impact other things/people/goals in the future.

You might want to try the Got It Done Journal for a week or month to see how you like it. Go to an office supply store and pick up a simple journal with a design you like (lined, unlined, graph paper design) and see how it works for you. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sweat Is Fat Crying

None of us like discomfort. We even come up with clich├ęs to explain it away.

Navy SEALS talk about, “The only easy day was yesterday.” Marines say, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.” I saw a great T-shirt in a gym recently: “Sweat is fat crying.”

But, what if we acknowledge moments of discomfort as portals of understanding? What if, instead of looking at pain as weakness leaving the body (or our heart), we acknowledge it as the body or heart telling us, “There’s something here you need to look at more closely.”

That takes courage; courage to move closer to the pain in order to understand it. Instead of hiding it or covering it up you bring it out into the light and roll it around and look at it and talk to it….and you ask, “What are you?” “Why are you here?” “Where’d you come from?” “Where are you going?” “What can I learn from you?”

The discomfort and, sometimes,  pain of caregiving, is here to teach us some something. And, it can’t teach us if it’s pushed away or locked in a box.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

But, What About Today?!!

One of the crazy-making emotions cranked up by caregiving is the intimation of our own mortality. If we’re caring for a someone, especially if they are elderly, we can’t help getting the feeling, “That’ll be me one day.”

There are two sides to the feeling so let’s lay’em out: First, we’re right on a variety of levels. If we’re lucky and nothing bad out of the blue happens we probably have a lot years left.

And yes, lot is a relative word, but we have…years…left.

The other side is that, yes, there may be a day in which we’re in a similar situation to the person for whom we’re caring.

Our society has only recently started helping us believe that we can age gracefully and that the years of life ahead of us don’t have to be a slogging through the mud of life death sentence.

Caring for another, and watching how they accept their later time in life, can help each of us decide, “is this how I want to do aging?”

And the benefit of our experience may not accrue solely to us. Everyone from our siblings and friends to children and co-workers will see how we handle our caregiving experience and how we deal with our own aging. They may discover a new way to experience compassion, empathy, caring and love for others by our example.

Today is a new day. We get to make choices about today. And today doesn’t have to be like yesterday.

Monday, April 14, 2014

No Blessings, No Kidding

Last week I was noting the fact that I said the blessing 3 times one day while having lunch alone. I was so stressed I didn’t remember having said it.

That word, blessings, gets tossed around a lot in discussions about caregiving and that tossing is one of the things that makes us crazy.

People will say, “It’s such a blessing to be able to care for my dad.” Or, “I get many blessings when caring for mom.” Or, “In the future I’ll look back and understand that caring for my wife was a blessing.”

All that is probably true, but you know, the future ain’t right now.

Let’s be honest, some days caregiving is not a blessing and it’s virtually impossible to look into the future and imagine looking back on your experiences and seeing anything as a blessing.

The best way, in fact, the only way to deal with times like that are to take the caregiving journey one step at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.

Set a goal to make it to suppertime or bedtime. If you can make it to then you get a small respite. And then, after a short rest, it starts again.

Setting short-term goals and giving yourself small rewards are really the best ways to move through the most difficult times.

Yes, there will be a day when all this is over, but today isn’t the day.

If you can find blessings today, God Bless You. If you can’t look for those moments of rest and escape that…truly…are a blessing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Said the Blessing 3 Times and Didn't Remember

Had lunch on the road on the way to see my mom at the nursing home on Saturday. It’s about about a 90-minute drive and I thought I’d catch lunch before I saw her.

I said the blessing 3 times.

I know that sounds crazy. I was dining by myself. And I didn’t say them one after the other.

But, I kept thinking, “Did I say the blessing?”

I realized that I had so many things on my mind about Mama and life that I…just…didn’t keep up. Once again, caregiving was making me crazy.

Caregiving makes you crazy. That’s enough said for anyone who’s into it. You have to slow down a little and register what’s going on around you.

I’ve started posting a note on my back door that says, “Cellphone.” If I don’t have something to remind me I’ll leave my phone on the counter and get miles down the road and have to turn around; or, stay stressed all day without it

If you’re starting to worry about me, thanks. I’m not worrying yet about myself. I’ve just got so much on my mind, like you probably do, and I’m creating tools, habits and systems that allow me to meet my responsibilities and keep up with life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Can I Get a Little Help Here?!

The author, Arthur Haley, kept a picture in his office of a turtle on top of a fencepost.

He said it reminded him that the turtle certainly didn’t get up there on his own, that it had help getting to its perch.

None of us have gotten to this point in life without the help—or hindrance—of others.

The object of the game, if we’re going to move ahead to our goals, is to thank the people who’ve helped us, look for others who might help and ease away from those folks who are slowing us down.

The late-Jim Rohn, an extraordinary speaker and motivator, said that each of us is the average of the five people we most often come in contact with.


If you believe that you’re probably immediately looking around at who influences you!

We’re all the turtle on the fencepost.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Take a Road Trip in Your Head for Your Own Good

The craziness of caregiving can have all kinds of negative impacts on our health.

So, want to lower your blood pressure? Want to make your blood chemistry better? Want to pump up the secretion of dopamine in your brain (that’s the chemical your brain pumps out when you feel a sense of joy, fun, elation, pleasure of some kind)?

Here’s how you do it: Start asking yourself these questions:
When was the last time I felt this feeling? Where was I? What was I doing? What else gives me that feeling? How did it look, smell, sound, feel, taste? Can I think of still more triggers? What can I do now to cultivate this feeling?

For example: Joy—When have you felt safe, relaxed, and joyful, utterly glad about what was happening in that moment? When have things truly gone your way, perhaps even better than you expected? When have you felt a spring in your step, an unstoppable smile, or a warm glow? When have you felt playful, as if you wanted to jump in and get involved?

Let yourself daydream for awhile and roll the answers around in your head. If your life is particularly stressful right now it might be difficult to focus on the positive, you’ll keep coming back to the now. But, take your time and pull yourself back to the good stuff.

Research has shown that thinking and feeling the good for even short periods of time has a wonderfully positive (pun intended) mental and physical impact.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Saturday Night Date With Alzheimer's

This blog is being written in my mother’s apartment at 10:17 pm on Saturday night.

Normally, like a lot of other folks, I’d be doing something else, probably something fun, on a Saturday night after 10 pm.

But, tonight I have the 10 pm – 10 am shift to watch over and take care of my mother who is 84 and has Alzheimer’s. I’ll be here 10-10 tomorrow night, too.

She’ll wake up about 3 am and I’ll help her to the bathroom, clean her up, and then get her back to bed.

The sitter who is supposed to be here has a health issue and has been out all week. My brother, who’s been the champion of our caregiving journey has done a number of overnights this week because I’ve been out of town. Since playing music keeps him sane and Saturday is his music night, I’m here for two nights. We are contracting with a service to care for Mama round-the-clock starting Monday.

If you’re a caregiver you recognize a number of issues at work; the challenges that pop up, juggling schedules, abrupt changes in plans, trying to do the little things that keep you sane, tag-team efforts to get things done and the fatigue…there’s almost always the fatigue, physical and/or emotional.

Recognizing that caregiving can make you crazy—admitting it—helps you step back and look at the situation a little more realistically. I know I won’t be here forever and, most likely, after toughing it out for the next 48-hours I can get some rest and get on with my week.

And yes, I realize that for some caregivers the demands far exceed mine. All our journeys are both the same and different.

The keys to being resilient; being able to maintain and bounce back are simple. Doing them can be a challenge.  

Here are three important characteristics of resilient caregivers:
1.     They are resourceful and have good problem-solving skills. They understand that there is no one right answer to any challenge.
2.     They are more likely to seek help. They don’t believe they can do it all themselves. And, if family members aren’t helping, they will look outside to community, church, social, caregiving groups and government agencies for help.
3.     They hold the belief that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and to cope. They see the wave of stress coming at them but instead of letting it wash over them they swim, dive, paddle, jump or thrash their way through, under, over or around the wave to calmer water. They believe they control their own emotions, not the caregiving experience.

Just checked on my mom. She’s sleeping soundly. Hope whatever she’s dreaming is wonderful.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Not Just "No," Hell No!

One of the main things that make caregivers crazy is trying to do too much.

I’m with ya on the heartfelt quote and emotional graphic we all see on FaceBook, “God never gives you more than you can handle.”

But, you know what, as a caregiver I can tell you that there are times I wish He’d pour a little less in my bucket.

People who try to do too much are usually running short on a couple of things: Anticipation…and the ability to say “No.”

As caregivers a lot of us believe we are running as fast as we can and we simply can’t or don’t take the time to look ahead and anticipate what’s coming at us…so then, when it’s right on top of us all we can do is react.

I get it that some of you are saying you’d be able to get it all done with a little help. But, that’s a case of not anticipating what has to be done and doing some planning about getting the help you need.

Slowing down just a tad enables you to look out into the future and see what’s coming at you. At that point you can determine what really needs to be done, what you can delay, what you can delegate and what you might be able to shelve completed…and…what you can simply refuse to do.

Saying “No” can be a real issue for some caregivers. But, I promise, if you can start saying “No” to some obligations, appointments, people, tasks and habits your life gets simpler, tasks seem easier and you can breathe.

As for saying, “No.” There are lots of ways to say, “No.” You might say, “I want to give you 100 percent but right now my plate is full and unless you can help me get some things off my plate I won’t be able to help you.”

Or, you could just say, “Not just ‘No,’ but ‘Hell No!’”

Go to and simply search the phrase, “Say No,” and you’ll find a ton of resources that can help you say “No” without feeling guilty.