Sunday, November 29, 2015

Is Your Sweetie Contributing to the Craziness?

One of the greatest stressors and stress-creators in caregiving is when the caregiver has a spouse/significant other who, even if they aren’t helping on a day-to-day basis, is emotionally removed from the situation. 

It’s wonderfully romantic and dramatic to believe they’ll be with you every step of the way, but for most couples, that’s not realistic. In some cases the spouse removes himself/herself from the situation, but you should understand that the attitude is seldom mean-spirited. Because we’re dealing with human beings with a whole range of issues there is an endless list of reasons why significant others abdicate responsibility.

On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen caregivers (here’s a sexist comment…most often it’s women) who, again, for a whole list of reasons, shut their significant other out…and then get stressed and angry when the other person is not a mindreader and just knows what needs to be done.

The absolute best suggestions for getting the other person involved or, at least, getting them on the same page, comes from the AARP. They recommend the caregiver initiate a conversation in which these issues are addressed:

“What role do you expect him or her to play? Suggest specific ways your spouse can help, and show appreciation for his or her efforts. Recognize that your responsibilities affect your spouse, and encourage him or her to talk about any frustrations. Your relationship is a priority — keep it that way.”

Check the links in the Resources section of this site for connections to the AARP.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Pound Cake Queen

I’m standing behind the podium at my mother’s funeral thanking  many of the folks who cared for Mama during her 3 1/2 year journey. I thanked those who loved her, and whom she loved, and noted a number of people who made her life easier, and more enjoyable, in a variety of ways.
I told them what I discussed in the last blog; that so often, during times like this, we say, “If there is anything I can do just ask,” but we may or may not really mean it.
Then I told them about the fact that Mama was the Pound Cake Queen of Lumberton, NC. Every year, around the holidays, Mama would bake 10-12 pound cakes and give them to people she loved, people who had done good things for her during the year, and some of her neighbors. She baked and gave pound cakes as an expression of love.
And then, here’s what I asked of them; I said, “If you’re one of those folks who say, ‘If there is anything I can do, just let me know,’ here’s what you can do….I want you to bake or buy a pound cake during the holidays and give it to someone you love or someone who has done something good for you during the past year. And when you give it to them you need to understand that you are doing this in honor of Marie Collins and the fact that she made your life better.”
THE CONGREGATION LOVED IT!! People were laughing and clapping and nodding their heads because many of them ( me included) had been on the receiving end of Mama’s pound cake gift.
The part they really loved was when I said, “And, if you can’t, or don’t want to bake a pound cake, or, if you would LOVE to bake a pound cake but you understand that if you do you’ll end up poisoning someone, then go buy a pound cake, take it out of the wrapper, put it on a plate and when you give it to them tell them that it’s Marie Collins’ recipe!”
When I said that the room exploded! Mama’s best friend, Maggie, was laughing so hard I thought we’d have to give her oxygen.
Take the pound cake challenge. If you know a caregiver, give’em a pound cake. If you are a caregiver, think about baking (if you have the time) or buying a poundcake, cut it in half or quarters to spread it out, and give it away. 
I’d appreciate it and Mama would have loved it!

Monday, November 9, 2015

If There's Anything I Can Do, Just Ask...Really?

November is National Family Caregivers Month. What a great time to do something for someone you know who is a family caregiver!

So often, when we are caregivers, friends and extended family (even relative strangers) will often say, “If there is anything I/we can do, please let us know.”

As caregivers we reply, “I sure will.” But, we don’t. Hardly ever do we call on folks to assist…unless it’s the argument we finally have with family members who aren’t pulling their weight. Luckily, my brother and I never had that argument…LOL! We argued about other things.

Folks are trying to be nice when they ask if there is anything they can do, but many are also doing an understandable dance. When encountering a caregiver good manners almost demands that we say, “If there’s anything….” But, let’s be honest, so often, in our minds, we’re not imagining that they’ll ask…or, truth be told, we are hoping that if they do it it won’t be something that will make us uncomfortable. For instance, “Would you come and sit with Mama for a couple of hours so I can take a break?” Uh oh.

I can tell you that I got to a point at which I thought, “I’d just as soon you not ask if you don’t really mean it.” It wasn’t a mean-spirited thought; more one of, just be honest.

Again, it’s National Family Caregivers Month. Find someone who is a caregiver—believe me, they are everywhere—and ask, “What can I do for you?” and mean it.

In the next blog I’ll tell you what we asked folks to do. I assure you, what we asked them to do, and when we asked, will surprise and delight you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Journey is Over

My current caregiver journey is over. On Wednesday, October 28, at about 9:15 am my mother passed away.

During the following couple of days my brother, Joe, and I stayed in close touch about how we were doing and how the details of Mama’s service would be  handled.

One of the things Joe and I agreed about was the feeling of release, and relief, we had. The steady humm of the weight of caregiving had been going on for so long I had become unaware of the stress. When the journey ended it seemed that the worry that had been such a weight…just lifted.

It’s such a cliche to say Mama is in a better place but, considering her deteriorating condition, she’s better off and so are we. During the last few days so many folks have been kind, caring, and understanding. They’ve offered, Sorry for your loss. My answer has surprised some, This was one of those situations in which you don’t want it to happen, but you’re glad when it does.

If you are a caregiver, or you know someone who is, understand that it’s ok to have the feeling of relief. It’s natural. It’s also natural to chastise yourself, to feel a little, or a lot, guilty, for having the thought. Come back to the understanding that the thought is your body and brain’s way of supporting you; of helping you survive. You simply need to understand that sometimes your mind (you do know your brain and mind are two different things, right?) isn’t working on your best interests by kicking out guilt thoughts.

So, this is a new phase of life, for Mama and me. Multiple times each day the thought never see her again comes to mind. That’s natural, too. 

As caregivers we all know what the end is and we are never completely prepared. I can tell you from recent experience, though, it isn’t all bad.

I love you, Mama. You made the most of this part of your journey, enjoy the next.