I like to regularly feature one-on-one conversations with a family Caregiver from either my Happy Healthy Caregiver Facebook Group or the Happy Healthy Caregiver Community. I call each of these recorded conversations a ‘Caregiver Spotlight’. I started these because each caregiver journey is unique and I know every time I talk to another caregiver I learn something new and I leave that conversation knowing I’m not alone and feel encouraged by others.
Meet Creative Family Caregiver – Carole Brecht
Carole Brecht’s first exposure to family caregiving occurred when she had just closed her art gallery and was planning to secure a job in her industry. Her dad worked full-time and her mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Carole had the time to step up as the daughter to help, not even knowing what a Caregiver was, nor hearing the word Caregiver until the end of her journey. She just knew her mom needed assistance with daily tasks and transportation and advocacy at her doctor appointments. Like many of us, Carole had no formal training in caregiving and learned as she went. Her caregiving journey with her mom lasted several years until her mom passed away two years ago. During this time, Carole didn’t have a support system. She felt caregiving was a lonely, isolating journey that caused her to withdraw. Carole is currently her father’s Caregiver.
Caregiving took Carole down a path she didn’t anticipate. Her personal experiences inspired her to explore two positive, creative outlets: Zentangle art and writing.
It’s not realistic to think that you can be happy all the time.
We live in a culture where we tend to stuff our emotions and fears. We’re busy. We don’t take time to feel and process our emotions and fears.
Lately, I’ve been trying to become more in tune to my inner voice. I think she has been talking to me all of my life and I just tend not to really hear her anymore – she became background noise. Sometimes she’s my number one fan pushing me to try new things and take the next step toward my goals but other times I catch her doubting me or comparing me to others and holding me back.
We have this urge to be perfect, instead of recognizing we are enough. Social media doesn’t help. Facebook and Instagram show individual’s highlight reels of sweet family moments, beautiful bodies, happy relationships, and gourmet meals. Deep down we have to know that these individuals have struggles, insecurities, bad habits, and imperfections. We’re all human!
I don’t eat perfectly all the time. I get frustrated with my progress. I have a list of repetitive fears. I yell at my kids, and I can shut out or stuff my true feelings. (more…)
If you are a working caregiver, your company may offer an EAP – an Employee Assistance Program. Many employers offer this benefit because they realize that you have many demands and stresses put on you outside of your work life that impact your job and it’s in everyone’s best interest if they help you cope.
However, like me, you may have overlooked your EAP.
I went to a lunch-n-learn at my company that outlined all the benefits an EAP has and I was blown away. I kept repeating in my head as the speaker was talking ‘I wish I knew about all of this a couple years ago!’
I left the session and went immediately to a couple family caregivers I know at work to share what I learned so that they could take advantage of some of these resources or at least be made aware of their existence.
EAP is one of those widespread benefits that is ‘out there’ and I think people think about the obvious use – counseling for them self – the employee. But even when I was picking up more and more caregiving responsibilities and completely overwhelmed I didn’t consider that EAP was for me.
I didn’t coin the phrase ‘courageous conversation’, I first heard this term from my sister who used it in the context of meetings she has with her employees where she has to often coach them on how they can improve.
When she shared that term with me, I immediately thought of those uncomfortable but necessary conversations I have had to have with my parents.
After my dad retired, my parents made Florida their primary residence and Michigan their summer residence. They lived independently for many years and outsourced the tasks and jobs that they really no longer wanted to do and could afford someone else to do such as housekeeping and yard maintenance.
Gradually over the years, independent living became a struggle and the amount of everyday living tasks that were being outsourced expanded. Individuals were hired to grocery shop, prepare meals and snacks, and run errands. Then, as my mom became less mobile, personal assistance was needed organizing medications, massaging and wrapping her legs, showering, driving and accompanying her to various doctor appointments.
While they lived on the ocean in their dream home, they were mostly confined to the condo. Independent living for them was like wading in the ocean. When their health was status quo and their help was coming consistently, life was doable. But, as soon as a big unexpected wave crashed in, it would topple them over and have a ripple effect on our entire family. (more…)
Each month, I have a one-on-one interview with a Caregiver in the Happy Healthy Caregiver Community. I call each of these recorded conversations a ‘Caregiver Spotlight’. I started these because each caregiver journey is unique and I know every time I talk to another caregiver I learn something new and I leave that conversation knowing I’m not alone and feel encouraged by others.
I’m excited to introduce you to my wonderful sister Susie!
Susie lives in Pennsylvania and is the amazing primary caregiver to our 78 year old mother and 53 year old brother with Asperger’s.
On top of this, she manages a household of four very active children ranging in age from 17-22 and she is a marvelous oil painter! For my entire family, the past few years have been crazy! Not only did we lose our father and move mom four times but Susie also went through a divorce.
Caregiver, please don’t make this mistake. If you are already making it…it’s time to course correct it. It’s never too late to start.
There is a big common myth among caregivers. Caregivers believe that they are supposed to give and give everything they have to those that they care for. Caregivers usually feel guilty if they don’t do this. They believe if they aren’t 100% focused on the person they are caring for then they aren’t doing enough.
Analogies to get your attention
If you were a hearty steak and potato dinner, there would be only so much of you for every one to consume before there was no food left. We need food to survive. Eventually, your house guests will get hungry again and you’ll either have to whip up something else or head to the store for more food.
You have a big heart. If you also had a surplus of extra cash for charity, there would only be so much good you could do before you’d have to return to work or acquire donors for your cause to earn more cash so you could go out and do more good.
If you were a full tank of gas there would be only so many places you could go before you’d run out of gas and need to stop for a refill. (more…)
I have read and heard much about meditation, especially in recent years as our lives continue to get stuffed with so many demands. ‘They’ say it can improve your life.
Once you hear that, how can you not try it?
The benefits of meditation
Then you hear about all the benefits of meditation. Here are a few that captured me:
- it reduces stress (Yes! I need that! What caregiver doesn’t?!)
- it improves concentration and mindfulness (Ok, guilty of not always living in the moment…that sounds good.)
- it encourages a healthy lifestyle and benefits cardiovascular and immune health (I want to maintain that!)
- it increases happiness (wait, healthy AND happy…I’m sold!)
- it slows aging (I’d like to be around longer especially if I’m healthy and happy!)
- it increases self-awareness and acceptance (validation that I am enough is always welcomed.)
Top that list off with the fact that you never hear anything bad about meditation and then you really feel like you have to make this a new habit. (more…)
Each month, I have a one-on-one interview with a caregiver in the Happy Healthy Caregiver Community. I call each of these recorded conversations a ‘Caregiver Spotlight’. I started these because each caregiver journey is unique and I know every time I talk to another caregiver I learn something new and I leave that conversation knowing I’m not alone and feel a little bit stronger.
Beth lives in Pittsburgh, PA area and has been caring for her 80 year old elderly aunt in her home for almost 2 years. Beth has four teenagers and says she is married to ‘one of the nicest people she’s ever met’. Beth enjoys running and writing about interesting things on her ‘Being Home‘ blog.
Beth’s mother lives across the street which she says played a huge part in allowing herself to even consider taking this primary caregiver role on in the first place. In addition to her mom, Beth has lots of local support including her cousin and a doctor neighbor who willingly makes house calls.
Beth is also grateful Aunt Linda is overall pleasant, in spite of her progressing dementia and other ailments, including diabetes. (more…)
Throughout our caregiving journey, we are developing so many new skills and collecting more resources than we know what to do with.
It can feel like we are getting our ‘masters in caregiving’ and preparing to write a thesis!
Getting her ‘masters’ was an expression that Colleen Kavanaugh, Certified Caregiving Consultant, used to explain why after a decade of caring for her own parents she decided to pursue a career in caregiving.
Whether we like it or not, caregiving changes us.
Each month, I have a one-on-one call with a caregiver in the Happy Healthy Caregiver Community. I call each of these recorded conversations a ‘Caregiver Spotlight’. I started these because each caregiver journey is unique and I know every time I talk to another caregiver I learn something new and I leave that conversation knowing I’m not alone and feel a little bit stronger.
This month, I spoke to Cindy who lives in Georgia with her husband and two daughters. Cindy knows the challenges well of helping to care for aging parents out-of-state while juggling a job and being involved in your children’s busy lives. Cindy helped her mom care for her dad who suffered from Alzheimer’s. He passed away 3 years ago. Cindy is currently the primary caregiver for her mom who lives in Florida and she is planning to move her mom close by. This is no easy task since her parents had a independent business and lived in their home for 48 years. (more…)