Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The First, and The First, and The First.....

This time last year my brother and I were thinking about our first Thanksgiving…ever…without Mama. She had passed away on October 28 and from that day forward almost everything was a First.
The First Day of Our Lives Without Mama, The First Thanksgiving, First Christmas, our First Birthdays Without Her.
This year, obviously, is not a First. But, there have been so many times during the last week or so when I’ve thought about Mama and how she loved to get ready of the holidays (although, at times it was a hassle), be with everyone and enjoy the celebrations.
If you are in our situations—your caregiver journey is over—keep remembering the good times. The more you think about them the more they become the dominant theme. Thinking about the difficult times only reinforces the negative.
If you are still a caregiver there are two thoughts I’d offer: First, there will be a time somewhere in the future in which a day, an event, a holiday will be, for you, a First. 
The very practical understanding I’d like for you to take away is there will be a day when your caregiver stresses will be over. 
I certainly realize the reality is bittersweet, but simply understanding there will be a day when your journey will end can be comforting.
Second, understand the holiday doesn’t need to be perfect. Again, I understand the thought of, “we are not going to let all this ruin the holidays” is a normal, we-all-have-it thought. 
Caregiving can be one of those life events, like having a child, that throws everything into a spin and there is a normal reaction to want at least SOME of life to be “normal”.
But, trying to make everything perfect denies the reality of the journey and puts an extra burden on, not just one group—the people who are trying to make it perfect—but, a second group—the people who think they are supposed to act (for your benefit) like nothing as changed.
So, understand that the journey won’t last forever and don’t try to make things perfect. Those two reasonably simple strategies can lower your stress level and raise your level of thankfulness; two incredibly valuable blessings during this wonderful season. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

If you know someone who might benefit from this blog, please share.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

You Have the Power

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. 

Leo Buscaglia

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Is Worrying Helping?

My devotion this morning opened with a great quote from George Washington: Worry is interest paid by those who borrow trouble.

Worry is one of the main contributors to caregiver craziness. It sucks so much energy out of us and, as I’ve noted before, energy is an exhaustible resource. You can burn out.

In fact, I have a friend who says, “Come worry with me.” Now, you and I know that both of us worrying about the same thing is twice the wasted of time. But, what she means is that she needs companionship, a connection, a feeling that she isn’t in her situation alone. I get that and that’s a good thing.

Here’s the deal, though: Whatever it is you’re worried about, the only two issues to consider are can you do something about it, or can’t you?

If you can do something about it, then do whatever your can do. Even if it’s only a little effort that gets you a tiny bit farther down the road it’s something. And, I can tell you that one something leads to another and another, and the next thing you know you’ve got a handle on that thing you were worried about. You feel more in control and the worrying tends to stop or, at least, lessen.

However, you can overdo the strategy of keeping busy. You can burn yourself out by going-going-going all the time in an effort to convince yourself that you are doing something about the situation.

If you can’t do anything about it worrying won’t help. Hmmm…you didn’t seem to be paying attention to that last line because you were thinking, “Everyone knows that.” Right.

So, here it is again, “If you can’t do anything about it worrying won’t help.” 

Does worrying make you feel better? No. Does it make you feel like you’re doing something? Sometimes.

Whatever you are worried about, either do something or understand that there’s nothing you can do and move on. In the next blog I’ll offer a really practical way to move on. 

Here’s a hint, redirect yourself.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tough Love: Listen if You Want to Be Listened To

Ran into a caregiver last week who had what—unfortunately—is the standard story; all of a sudden the responsibility is on him and his family, stress, “what do we do?!” coming up with answers a bit at the time, calling friends to ask what they’ve done to deal with the challenge.
He said, “I immediately realized how many of my friends are in the same situation. In the past when they talked about it I never heard what they said. It was just them. Now that we’re in the middle of it I’m hanging on every word of advice.”
The key part of his comment is the understanding that not only is he not the first and only caregiver, he has lots of friends in his circle who are in the same situation and can offer support.
Here’s what I see: So many caregivers isolate themselves from support. It’s out there if you look for it. But, you have to be supportive of them, too. I see lots of caregivers who, once they get someone to listen, will wear the listener OUT with tales of woe. They don’t have anyone who will listen to their issues and once they find a target…well…it’s time for the listener to pack a lunch. 
If you want to just lay out all your problems you need to find a shrink or a priest. if you have a friend who will listen understand that they are gold…and be sure you listen when they are talking. The attitude of, “Yeah, yeah, I hear ya, but your problems are not as big as mine,” won’t get you listeners, friends and supporters for very long. 
Listen if you want to be listened to.
Everyone has battles they are fighting. Theirs might be different from yours, but they are no less important.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Forecast is Cloudy With a Chance of Sunny

It’s Friday, April Fool’s Day, and, no foolin’, it’s raining like crazy outside my window. A weather front moved in from the southeast and brought some rain, hail, winds, and overall yucky weather. 
Is “yucky” a technical weather term?
On days like this, if I can’t take a nap, I want to go outside, point at the sky and say, “Now You stop that!…please.”
But, you know what, the forecast is for this weather to move away by tomorrow and the rest of the weekend should be nice
Recently, I’ve come to understand that thoughts and emotions are like the weather. They often zoom into our minds like dark clouds and can easily overwhelm us. But, they aren’t there forever. There will be a time when they’ll be gone and we’ll see life more positively.
The reality is that you can’t control what pops into your mind and heart, it just happens. And, it’s difficult to cognitively (thinking it through) force the thoughts from our minds. You remember the old trick of telling people not to think about a pink elephant? SEEEEE!!! What are you thinking about right now?
But, it’s also true that you can literally work the thoughts and feelings out of your mind.
Here’s the secret: Keep moving. Have a To-Do List, a project, a hobby, something you can get busy on. Keep your focus on the activity and you’ll find that it doesn’t take long for your mind to move away from what might be a negative, stressful thought and onto the activity.
Caregiving is a wonderful example. The worries, frustrations, and, sometimes, anger, that come with caregiving often bring a thundercloud of negative and stressful thoughts to mind. As much as you can, look at each individual activity as something you can focus on, a task you can complete, another check on your To-Do List. 
This is a great way to keep caregiving from making life—and you—crazy.
Looking out my window right now I’m seeing a shadow beside a tree. That means a ray of sunshine has to be around here somewhere to create it. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Suuuure, You Can Do It Allllll!!!!

“Be kind to yourself and don’t take on the guilt. Just do your best…and remember you can’t do it all.” Caregiver Christine H., 

I’m sure you know I’m being facetious when I say you can do it all. Christine’s thought above is the best, most basic message you can learn in your caregiver journey. 

I keep thinking that one of the things we as caregivers should do is make T-shirts, pajamas, and nightgowns for our loved ones with Christine’s quote on the front. That way, at night when we leave over to kiss them goodnight, or in a care center when we hug and kiss them goodbye, the message is one of the last things we see when we leave them.

You may think I’m over-stating this, but if you put that message somewhere near you so you see it frequently, it will become part of your conciousness.

You’ll get through this caregiving experience, even though at times it seems you won’t. But, your ability to carry on and come out the other end reasonably whole will depend on how well you care for yourself.

As my mother used to say, “You take care of you.”

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Djeat? Well, did you?

“Djeat?” is a Southern question, it’s one we’re asked by grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and friends within a few minutes of walking in the house. It means, “Did you eat?” As Southerners, food is so much more than just nourishment; it’s support, friendship, love…a whole range of positive feelings.
So, if I ask you, as a caregiver, “Djeat?I’m broadly asking, “Are you taking care of yourself?”
But, in this short message let me be more focused. Are you taking care of yourself nutritionally? Caregivers are terrible about eating right in order to maintain their energy levels. We’ll grab a snack instead of a meal, or snack constantly, or miss a meal because we’ve got all these other things we have to do. 
As I keep telling caregivers, if you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be able to take care of others.
So, Djeat?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Getting Your Second Wind

A couple of days ago I received a message from a high school aquaintance who had been a caregiver for a decade before her mother passed away early this year. She noted that she was having trouble sleeping, couldn’t get motivated to do anything, felt…lost.

I pointed out that some studies show it takes 3-5 years to adjust to the loss of a loved one and she’s only about a month into her journey. I also suggested she see her physician for some counseling and help with sleeping and dealing with what sounds like an episode of depression.

At the same time, I’m running into some rough weather in life and yesterday was an especially difficult day. I had the TV on for background music and Billy Joel’s You're Only Human (Second Wind) came on. As I listened to the words I immediately felt a lift so I went online to check the lyrics. I’ve read them about a dozen times in the last 24 hours. 

Even though he wrote the song to address the issue of teen depression and suicide it is perfect for caregivers. Read through the song at least twice, check the notes at the bottom, and see what you think.

And, Billy, thanks…more than you know…

"You're Only Human (Second Wind)"

You're having a hard time and lately you don't feel so good
You're getting a bad reputation in your neighborhood
It's alright, it's alright
Sometimes that's what it takes
You're only human, you're allowed to make your share of mistakes

You better believe there will be times in your life
When you'll be feeling like a stumbling fool
So take it from me you'll learn more from your accidents
Than anything you could ever learn at school

Don't forget your second wind
Sooner or later you'll get your second wind
It's not always easy to be living in this world of pain
You're gonna be crashing into stone walls again and again
It's alright, it's alright

Though you feel your heart break
You're only human, you're gonna have to deal with heartache
Just like a boxer in a title fight
You got to walk in that ring all alone
You're not the only one who's made mistakes
But they're the only things that you can truly call your own

Don't forget your second wind
Wait in your corner until that breeze blows in

You've been keeping to yourself these days
Cause you're thinking everything's gone wrong
Sometimes you just want to lay down and die
That emotion can be so strong
But hold on
Till that old second wind comes along

You probably don't want to hear advice from someone else
But I wouldn't be telling you if I hadn't been there myself
It's alright, it's alright
Sometimes that's all it takes
We're only human
We're supposed to make mistakes
But I survived all those long lonely days
When it seemed I did not have a friend
Cause all I needed was a little faith
So I could catch my breath and face the world again
Don't forget your second wind
Sooner or later you'll feel that momentum kick in
Don't forget your second wind
Sooner or later you'll feel that momentum kick in

All copyrights apply to Billy Joel.

"You're Only Human (Second Wind)" is a song written in 1985 and performed by Billy Joel. The song deals with teenage depression and suicide. It originally appeared on Billy Joel's Greatest Hits in 1985 and became a top ten hit, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Joel, who had once attempted suicide himself, stated in a 1985 interview that he wrote the song as a way to help young people struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide.[1] In his original draft, he was concerned that the song sounded too depressing so he re-wrote it with a bouncy, joyous beat and melody with lyrics that stressed personal forgiveness and optimism about life. Joel donated all royalties from the song to the National Committee for Youth Suicide Prevention.[2] (notes from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Reading through the obits/info about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who passed away Saturday at 79, a couple of basic observations keep forming: First, nice guy. Interesting, although argumentative; obviously loved his family and friends; the type of guy you want on your side. Second, not the person you want on the other side if you are saying, “Society changes and there are some things about it that might be different than they were 250 years ago, some things the Founding Fathers didn’t anticipate/didn’t experience.”

The best line of thought, though, was in The Washington Post. They noted that Scalia’s conservative arguments made progressives toughen up their own arguments, made them better/smarter/more persuasive. The paper quoted Proverbs 27:17, “ Iron sharpens iron.”

If you believe that life keeps sending you lessons until you get the lesson you’ll understand why I keep getting the message that there’s an opposite side to tough times. Obviously, it’s a lesson I need to learn.

If you’re trying to actually live life, with live being an active verb, there are going to be situations that aren’t blue birds and lemonade. The questions to keep holding in your mind are, “What can I learn from this? What do I want and how can I take these lessons and get closer to the life I want to live?”

Maybe we all need a Justice Scalia in our lives, someone from whom we can learn lessons. And, whether we like it or not, aren’t those the folks we appreciate all along the journey?

Thank you, Your Honor.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Let's Make Your Caregiving Life Easier

I don’t usually plug products, but there’s an online site that might offer products to make your life easier.

In fact, it’s easierliving.com

Have to admit, I don’t know how good their customer service is, but you’ll find a whole range of products for every use you can think of.

Good luck!

Thursday, January 21, 2016


From the first moment you know you’re going to be a caregiver you should be looking around and finding others who have done it and are doing it. You need to use seven simple questions as the basis for gaining knowledge as fast as possible.

The questions are What? Why? Who? Where? When? How? How Much?

When I would take my mother to a doctor’s appointment I’d always take a notepad and pen. I’d write the seven questions in the upper left-hand corner of the pad. Seeing the questions prompted me to ask better questions and my retention rate was higher, I remembered more.

A sad, unnecessary statistic is that most people forget over half of what  doctor tells them before they ever leave the doc’s office; that’s absurd and dangerous.

I had two docs ask me about the pad and questions, “Whataya have there?” I’d tell them, “This is how I’m going to ask you better questions and not forget what you tell me.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New You, Best You

Ok, my rant from the last post is over…kinda.

There’s a wonderful, monthly magazine published in the Pinehurst area of NC, Outreach, that is aimed at readers who are 50+. I’m writing a caregiver column for them for each month this year.

Carrie Frye, editor of Outreach, makes me sound a LOT smarter than I am. Carrie has done a wonderful job of picking a theme for each month. I’m trying to aim my column at each theme.

The theme for January is, New You, Best You. The piece I wrote focuses on becoming the best caregiver you can be, but not feeling guilty if you aren’t at your best every day.

If you want 2016 to be different, and better, than 2015 in your caregiving life; or, if you believe 2016 might be the year you become a caregiver, here are two ideas I can guarantee will help: 
- First, get a notebook. If you don’t have a notebook, or something to keep info, ideas, rants, and phone numbers in, you are already putting yourself at a deep disadvantage. And yes, if you can do it all on your cell phone, God Bless You…I’m not that organized or efficient.
- Start making a list of all the things you have questions about; legal, medical, personal, financial, spiritual, schedules, networking, help, family, organizational (where do your parents keep financial information in the house?). 

The more you try to keep all this stuff in your head the higher your stress level and the more mistakes you’ll make.

If you are going for New You, Best You as a caregiver, get a notebook and start making a list.