Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Getting Through the Tough Times

You’ve had a tough day of caregiving…how do you deal with it/treat yourself/deal with the stress? 

If you find a glass of wine, a cold beer or a candy bar relaxing there is nothing wrong with that — in moderation. Substance abuse, including food or any other type of harmful escape, is absolutely out. 

I often tell people that my method of coping is The 3 B’s…Books, Barbells and Beer. And, I make no excuses about using beer as a relaxer…but, I know my limit and when I reach it, I stop. 

Have I always been that disciplined…no. It’s just that I’ve had some situations in which I said and did things I regretted after having a few (or waaaaay) too many beers. I learned my lesson. 

Caregiving is difficult enough without the guilt that comes with losing control, even though the behavior may seem to make you feel better in the short term. 

A wide range of options for stress reduction are available. And yes, I’ll agree that exercise/meditation/prayer sometimes aren’t as satisfying as a cold beer can be, but here’s the cliche, you’ll thank yourself in the morning. 

Don’t make caregiving more difficult than it has to be.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Caregiving...Take the Stairs!

One of the reasons I love this time of year is commencement speeches. They are opportunities to get a reboot in life. They help us hear and understand points we often forget in the gettin’-it-done world of everyday life.

One of my young cousins, Conner Makitka, is the valedictorian of North Duplin High School’s Class of 2015. As such, she gave the valedictorian address at their ceremony last Saturday.

Conner had a DVD of her speech and we watched it at a family celebration on Sunday. She was wonderful! 

She made two great points: She said, “Up until this point in our lives there has been a plan.”…and she inferred that the plan was created by someone else, parents. Then she said, “But, now there’s no plan” and she talked about the fact that from this point forward most of the plans for life are made by the graduates. Point being: If you don’t already have a plan, you better start making one. I loved that!

But, the idea I liked the most—and the one that really clicked with me regarding caregiving—was when she said, “Life isn’t an elevator, you have to take the stairs.” Is that great, or what?!!

I loved her use of stairs as an metaphor. You have to work at climbing, but if you understand there’ll be landings, plateaus, where you can rest and collect yourself, you can keep moving.

We all wish caregiving was an elevator; you just get in, push the button and take the ride. But, we all know caregiving is about climbing stairs…and sometimes those stairs look like they never end. But, if we understand the concept of the landings—and look for them—we get to stop a moment and catch our breath before moving on to the next section. 

Stopping, even for a moment, and collecting ourselves is what keeps the craziness level from getting too high.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fearless Caregiver Conference...What Were They Thinking?

Today’s Caregiver Magazine is sponsoring Fearless Caregiver conferences in Winston-Salem and Yanceyville, NC, this week. Gary Barg, the creator and publisher of Today’s Caregiver, is a great guy and did a wonderful job in Winston-Salem yesterday of helping 100+ caregivers and professionals get tips, tactics and strategies for, hopefully, keeping caregiving from making them CRAZY.

As a professional who spends most of his time at conferences presenting programs, it was interesting for me to simply sit back and be an attendee; to  listen, talk to others and to learn.

One thing, though, struck me as odd; too few people had anything to take notes with and on. Only about 25 percent of the group had a notebook or pad or anything on which to remember important information. Some folks obviously didn’t even bring a pen or pencil. 

What were they thinking?

Did they not think they’d hear anything worth remembering? Did they believe they’d remember everything? 

Or, did they just not think? Did they believe the information was like Velcro and all they had to do was be exposed to it and it would stick to them. Then, when they needed an answer, all they had to do would be to peel the answer off their bodies and read it?

The INSTANT you realize you’re a caregiver is the moment you should start keeping something to write with and something to write on close at hand. 

Don’t EVER go into any type of meeting (doctors, care centers, in-home care staff, pharmacists) without something to write with and something to write on.

You’ll forget half of what the doctor tells you before you ever leave their office. You’ll forget all kinds of everyday things. 

Do a To-Do List! You say you don’t have time? You don’t have time NOT to!

By the time the conference was only an hour old, Gary had already offered a wide range of great suggestions. I looked around at the staring faces and I wanted to jump up and shout, “Wake UP! You don’t understand the quality and importance of what you’re hearing!!”

But, I didn’t. I was too busy taking notes.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Branch or Wings?

While reading my morning devotion I came across a quote that jumped off the page at me: “A bird sitting in a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because it’s trust is not in the branch, but in its own wings. Always believe in yourself.”

One of the basic issues about caregiving that makes us all CRAZY is the fear that we don’t have all the answers/have the skills/have the money/understand the process and somehow our loved one will suffer because of it.

We suffer because we care so much. We worry that we are not doing our best. All you can do is all you can do. 

However, I’ll trumpet my basic philosophy: If you won’t take care of yourself you won’t be able to take care of others.

Moving through the caregiver experience and coming out the other end…whole…is the objective. 

Keep asking questions, keep learning, keep trying and keep taking care of yourself.

Don’t worry about the branch breaking, think more about the power of your wings.