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.
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…)
Sometimes you just have to laugh at your caregiving situation. A little caregiver humor can go a long way! When my sisters and I were packing my mom and moving her from her assisted living in Georgia to my sister’s home in Pennsylvannia, we created a group text called ‘It’s a Great day to give care’ (this is Susie’s mantra that she adapted from Grey’s Anatomy mantra ‘it’s a beautiful day to save lives’) and in this group text there are tons of random little texts that start with ‘You know you are a caregiver when…’.
A sense of humor is a major defense against minor troubles. – Mignon McLaughlin
Each time I read one of the texts or added my own, I knew that smiles where occurring and the day was looking a little brighter. It’s a fun game to play when you are in a thick of some crazy, can’t make this s&%t up caregiver situation, and you are challenged to flip it on its side or upside down to discover the humor. As caregivers we can’t change what happens to us but we can change and own how we react to situations. Choosing to find the caregiver humor in situations will help you stay sane.
Ready for some caregiver humor?
I thought I’d share a few of my favorite ‘You know You are a Caregiver’ texts that were exchanged between me and my sisters:
What do you give a caregiver to show them you care and are thinking about them? What they really want is more time and available hands to call when they are needed . But in our society where the demand of our time far surpasses the supply, it’s a struggle to be that helper we want to be to those caregivers we love. Often times, I have heard the phrase, ‘Please let me know how I can help.’ I never even knew how to reply to that statement. It may be well meaning but it’s not actionable. Being a caregiver is tough stuff. Often times caregiving is emotional draining and physically straining. There are usually no warning signs when a caregiving crisis is approaching. It’s reactive, urgent, and stressful. We don’t know when or if things will improve and often times we know that our situation will probably get worse before it gets better . When a loved one has a disease or a chronic illness, the whole family is impacted in some way. As caregivers, we all have those days, weeks, or even months when we feel like we are on a treadmill and no matter how hard we try to stay on top of it, the plates and pieces we are juggling fall and it feels like no matter how much we give it’s never enough.
I think a gift that continues to remind an overwhelmed caregiver that they are enough is a great gift.
‘We’re out of tricks.’ This is the phrase I used when talking to my two out-of-town sisters about the need to find a better living situation for mom…again. Mom has been in two different assisted living communities in the past year and half, since my dad has passed. Neither place has been a fit and frankly I don’t think any of them will.
Profound, right? I thought so. This simple statement slapped me upside the head when I heard this from Dawn, the owner and creator of a nonprofit organization called ALOHA (A Life Of Healthy Aging). Dawn’s organization visits my mom’s new assisted living community monthly to offer support to resident’s families.
Dawn followed this statement with a question: ‘who is your mom?’ and challenged me to find out. I definitely know who I want her to be – I want her to be me! But, even though she has been my mom for 44 years, I still have some detective work to do in order to answer this question. (more…)
For many of us, ‘the holidays’ can simply mean we have even more to do than normal and the last thing any family caregiver needs is one more item on their to do list. As the holidays grow near, I find myself reminiscing about my childhood holidays, reflecting on those simpler days when we mainly just got to show up and enjoy the fun. I am very grateful for the wonderful family holiday memories I have. As an adult, I realize that it was primarily my mom that worked so hard to make holidays special for us. She trimmed every corner of the house, planned and prepared every meal, and shopped and wrapped for every gift (including Santa gifts and stocking stuffers!). We would have ‘stacks’ of presents beautifully tied with ribbons and all six of us would have the same amount of gifts to open. I have just two kids and it’s difficult to ensure that everything is fair and equal. I’m sure my mom and dad collaborated on the budget but I’m also fairly certain that my mom went over budget every year. Let’s just say I also have some memories of my dad paying the bills in January.
Over the kid’s fall break (which is earlier than most places since we start school the first week of August) we went to Ireland. We purchased the 6 night package last winter from Travel Zoo. The package included round trip flights from Atlanta to Dublin, one night in a hotel, 5 nights of bed & breakfast vouchers, car rental, and a mobile Wi-Fi device (this little buddy is a MUST have on your trip as it works in cars, pubs, B&B, etc.!). My 15 year old daughter, Natalie, planned the general route we took and listed out the towns and attractions she thought looked interesting. In her style, the itinerary was an over achievement but we knew that going into the trip. We just liked having the list of options at our fingertips. I used a web tool called Trello that also has an app and organized a list for each day with a card on the list for the details about each option, who recommended it, and any special notes. I included a few tips that I got from Instagram and Pinterest searches, as well. Once we knew the general route, I selected the bed & breakfasts based on TripAdvisor reviews about a month beforehand. (more…)
Early in our marriage, may be even before we were married, Jason and I had agreed that we would always use some of our time off to have our own vacation. Coming from a big family, there are always events and family reunions to attend but it was important to us that we set aside focused family time together each year. Before our children were part of our lives, we took some special trips to New York City, California and Grand Cayman. Not to mention our honeymoon in Bermuda.
Traveling with young children
Once we had our children our vacations primarily centered on trips to visit family. Every summer, we have been to our family cabin in Hubbard Lake, Michigan and there have been several visits to Florida, Pennsylvania, Phoenix, and Washington D.C. areas to see my parents and our siblings. One exception to the normal trips is when we jumped on an opportunity when Natalie was 10 months old to go see my sister Susie and her family in Botley, England. Her husband Dave was there for a 2 year assignment and it was Susie’s 40th birthday and we were missing their 4 kids since they had moved away. They had been in England long enough to show us all the local sites they loved. Susie kept Natalie one day when we visited so Jason and I could take the train into London for a day on our own.
Our first big international trip as a family was BIG! In June 2007, the four of us went to Bali, Indonesia. (more…)