Friday, February 27, 2015

Ask Smarter: Seven Key Questions

If you read the last blog you know the "A" in CRAZY is Ask.

But, what should you ask? Well, it depends on what you need to know and if you're with me on the caregiving is like taking a physics test when you don't know physics the questions will depend on your situation.

However, here's a strategy that not only will help you come up with the right questions, it will literally make you smarter.

There are seven simple questions that form the basis of any exercise in getting the answers you need. Six of the questions are in a poem by Rudyard Kipling:
"I keep six honest serving men, they taught me all I knew.
Their names are What and Why and Where and How and When and Who."

In our exercise we'll be adding How Much to the poem.

Here's how you start: First, don't ever go into any sort of meeting (in person, on the phone or online...with doctors, social workers, caregivers) without something to write with and something to write on. We forget half of what a doctor tells us before we ever walk out of their office, so don't rely on your memory.

Next, simply write these seven questions in the upper left-hand corner of what you are writing on: What? Why? Who? Where? When? How? How Much?

Your eyes see the questions and relay the information to your brain (remember, your brain's basic purpose is to answer questions) and your brain starts looking for and being aware of, answers.

Using this simple exercise means fewer of those head-slapping, Why Didn't I Ask That?! moments.

Ask more questions and you'll be less CRAZY.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Caregiving: You have a physics test tomorrow...and you know nothing about the subject.

We know the C in Crazy means Caring. Your basic focus is caring for the caree.

The R represents Realistic. As much as you would like for everything to be perfect in your caregiving experience you know it won't be. As long as the caree is safe, everything after that is a bonus.

The A in Crazy stands for Ask. Here's a way to think about the caregiving experience: What if I came to you and said, "You have a physics test in an hour, get ready"?

You do not have a textbook, you've taken no classes, you know some folks who have studied physics and you can probably call them and ask some questions, but for the most part, you're on your own.

How would you react?! Would you simply say, "Sorry, Mike...but, I'm not taking the test"?

Here's the problem, for most people the physics example is EXACTLY how they come to the caregiving experience. Something happens to a loved one...stroke, heart attack, auto accident, you name the event, and a doctor walks into the waiting room and offers the diagnosis and what the future looks like. And all of a sudden they're a caregiver.

No preparation, no warning.

Believe me, in February, 2012, when my brother and I were standing in the darkness on the cold steps of our mother's house looking through the door's window and seeing her walking around, half-dressed, lost in her own house with us trying to call to her and get her to unlock the door, we looked at each other and knew that life as we had known it was over. It was now physics test time.

Recently, I was talking with a woman whose mother had passed away a few weeks ago. She is struggling with the loss and what to do about her dad who is in the early stages of Alzhemier's. She has two step-siblings and she has simply walked away from her father's care. She called her step-siblings and simply said, "I can't do this, you'll have to take care of him."

Not all of us have the "luxury" of having help who will step up and deal with the situation. For many of us it's us or no one. The pressure can be/is overwhelming.

In the next day or two I'll offer a simple questioning strategy that not only helps you figure out what to ask/do, but literally makes you smarter.

Good luck, and don't let caregiving make you crazy!