A guest post written by Family Caregiver Sarah Allen
Staying Connected with Mom
My mother has taken care of me for most of my life. Now she is struggling with the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, and I know it is my time to step up to the plate and return the favor.
Rather than continuously visit nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and try to pay for a home aid ourselves, we moved her in with my family and I take care of her.
My sister Emily lives out of town, but is constantly looking for ways to keep in touch because she can’t see my mom every day. With so many families in our situation, most know it is hard to keep in touch with loved ones we can’t see often. Here are some ways that you can stay close to loved ones.
For many family caregivers, the future is just too uncertain. Questions with no specific answers and abundant worries race through our heads. Questions like:
Will we have enough money to take care of our loved ones?
Will I have enough energy to make it through the day?
Will my loved one remember who I am?
Why has all of this responsibility been given to me?
How long will the demands of caregiving last?
What will people think of me if I don’t visit today?
All of these questions trigger other questions and we can find ourselves stressed out and overwhelmed over all these uncertainties.
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.
As family caregivers, we have to be ready for the unexpected. Organization will help you be ready because a caregiving crisis is always lurking. Unlike the children many of us care or cared for that eventually become more independent as they age, our aging parents we may be caring for are moving in the opposite direction, doing less physically and potentially remembering less mentally, eventually becoming completely dependent on us.
A caregiving crisis may be a trip to the emergency room but it could also be that urgent frustrating call from your loved one like they can’t make a donation online to the republican committee, they have no more diet ginger ale, they can’t get into their Facebook account, they completely ran out of disposable underwear or the Wifi isn’t working ( can you tell these have all been crisis of the day ’emergencies’ for me?!). After all we are often our caree’s primary shopper, tech support, and contact with the outside world. (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.
Are you as curious about essential oils? Lately I’ve been hearing more and more about them and I just had to know what these are all about.
As part of my holistic health discovery, I enjoy learning about natural ways to overcome health obstacles and optimize health.
My expert interview conversation with Sue Ellen Jones certainly peaked my curiosity about essential oils even more.
Sue Ellen Jones is a former teacher turned Essential Oils Wellness Advocate with doTerra (which means ‘gift of the earth’). Sue Ellen lives with her husband in Alpena, Michigan. She’s raised five children and now enjoys 13 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. (more…)
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…)
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…)