Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Enough About Me, Now Let's Talk About Me

Last night, I clicked on an article about how caregivers can find more balance in their lives, especially around the holidays. It started out well by noting that the holidays can be an emotional rollercoaster, the days this time of year are shorter so there’s less sunshine, and in some areas of the country the cold keeps people inside more which often means less interaction with others. The piece noted how easy it is to slide into depression. But, it wasn’t long before a phrase jumped off the page at me.

The phrase, itself, wasn’t all that big a deal…I’ll give it to you in a moment.

Here’s the deal, though; if I see the word Balance in the title of an article that supposedly focuses on who I am or what I do I’m thinking it’s going to show me a variety of ways to keep from getting out of balance…in fact, I’ll go a selfish step further, the article is going to be about me, what will help me, my life, my problems and issues…me, me, me.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m not saying I want to discount the person for whom I’m caring. It’s just that for every 2 words written or spoken about how caregivers can take better care of themselves there are 20,000 words about how to care for the caree. And, I get it. Truly. I understand who the care is focused on.

This is my hot-button about caregiver information. So much focus is given to the caree that the caregiver gets left out. Dr. Ronald D. Adelman, the co-chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, has coined the term The Invisible Patient for caregivers.

But, as the old joke goes, enough about me, let’s talk more about me…Don’t promise me something that will help me and within a few sentences drop in the phrase, You can help your parents by….  And then, list a number of ways you can do things for the caree. 

Are you feelin’ my pain?

We all want to be better caregivers and we can discover a wide variety of ways simply by searching online with the phrase, “10 Ways to Be a Better Caregiver.” You’ll see a bunch of wonderfully written articles that offer all kinds of ways to help you parents are whomever you are caring for.

Allow me to be a little more blunt. If no one else is saying it to you, let me be the one: It’s ok to be a little selfish, it’s ok to look out for you, it’s ok to want to be cared for, yourself, every now and then.

As long as you are satisfying the Big Two: The Caree is Safe, The Caree is as comfortable as possible considering your financial realities; you are fulfilling your responsibilities. After those two, everything else is gravy.

So much that is written and spoken about care for caregivers is actually about how caregivers can be more effective in their caregiving duties. That’s wonderful…but, it ain’t about how I/you/we can take better care of ourselves.

As my mother used to say, “It’s ok for you to take care of you.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Boats and Caregiving...a Comparison?

Hang with me on this one because I’m going to compare two situations—boats and caregiving—that seem to have little in common, but, the more I think about them the more connections there are.

There’s an old saying among boat owners that the two happiest days of their lives are the days they bought their boats and the days they sold them. Boats are a blast when everything is working. The day you buy a boat you are imagining all the fun it’ll be, the days on the water, wind in your hair, sun on your face. But, even when things are going great there’s a ton of expense, time, and effort just to use them. 

When boats aren’t working it’s even worse; you have to haul’em around to get’em fixed and that can be extraordinarily expensive. The day you sell your boat you may be remembering some of the fun you had, but you’ll also be breathing a sigh of relief that the stress associated with the boat is over.

Now, flip the two topics around…two of the saddest days of life for a lot of us are the days we find out we’re caregivers and the day our caregiving responsibilities end. The day we become caregivers can be one of the scariest days of life. I remember my brother and me standing in the parking lot of a rehabilitation center and thinking, “How do we handle this?” There were challenges ahead we couldn’t imagine. 

I also vividly remember the instant Joe and I decided, while standing in the parking lot of a hospital, that we were not going to extend our mother’s death by continuing extraordinary measures. He called me two days and said, “Mama passed away about 15 minutes ago.” Our sense of relief—for Mama and for us—was almost embarrassing.

Being honest about the emotions caregiving causes is one of the ways to keep it from making life crazy…

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Here's How to Be SUPER CAREGIVER!!!! You'll Be Amazed....

What if there was a secret to boosting your confidence, pulling yourself out of those low times, and becoming SUPER CAREGIVER?!

The secret may be so simple—and, at times, silly-feeling—you’ll have a hard time believing it.

Amy Cuddy is a Harvard researcher who has found an interesting connection between body language and confidence. Her TED talk is one of the most-watched, ever…simply paste this link to your browser and check it out…

Cuddy has found that standing in a “power pose,”—fists on hips, head up, feet spread—you know, like Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, like a superhero, tells our brains to be more confident. The pose gives us an I can do this! type of confidence. 

Aren’t there times you could really use a boost? What about those days when caregiving is making life crazy and you need something to show you that it isn’t totally overwhelming? I know this sounds kinda wild, but it works! 

Try it in private. Assume the pose and two things happen: First, you’ll probably start laughing at the whole thing, and laughter is a wonderful antidote to stress. Second, if you hold the pose for a minute, and breath deeply as you do, you’ll find that you actually feel better, more powerful. According to TIME magazine, “Using a few simple tweaks to body language, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy discovers ways to help people become more powerful.” 

Cuddy's life story is one of wonderful, but unexpected, success. Early in her college career she suffered a severe head injury and wasn’t supposed to be able to finish college. Not only did she complete her undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D., she returned to her training as a classical dancer and was wonderfully successful at that. Today, she is a well-respected researcher and teacher at the Harvard Business School.

No kidding, you should try this. In the short-term, assuming a power pose is a wonderful way to find a lighter heart. In the long-term, it can be a powerful weapon in your arsenal tools of ways to keep caregiving from making life crazy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Here's Your ECNALUBMA!!

I have a phrase that can change your life as a caregiver!

You need to write it down on a Post-It note and put it at the top of your mirror so you see it every morning. You need a sweater with this phrase on it; the phrase needs to be written backwards like ECNALUBMA (when people are driving and they look in their rear-view mirror they see AMBULANCE) that way, every time you stand in front of a mirror, walk by a big window, or stroll by a shiny, dark car you see the reflection of the phrase. You need to write it on your palm or the back of your wrist so that when you hit a moment of stress you can simply look down and remember…

Detach with love.

I read the phrase on the site in an article by caring consultant, Carol Bradley Bursack.

Bursack does a wonderful job of explaining that, as caregiver, we often find that the person for whom we are caring becomes bossy, angry, and—sometimes—downright mean. In most situations they didn’t exhibit those behaviors in the past, but now, as their condition deteriorates, their feelings about life and control slipping away from them causes a level of stress that manifests itself in negative behaviors.

Detach with love. 

You aren’t detaching in the sense of denying your responsibilities or denying your love for them. You are simply acknowledging that they aren’t the person they were before…now.

Detach with love.