Tag Archives: support groups

No sissies allowed

“Old age is not for sissies.” My mom says it all the time. She’s right.

You know what else is not for sissies? Caregiving.

CaptureIf we are lucky enough to have our parents live well into old age, chances are we will all take on the role of caregiver at some point. Some of us will enter it willingly, others reluctantly. Some will only spend a few months in the role, others may spend years. Getting started is overwhelming. Heck, the whole thing is overwhelming!

When our parents reach the point that they need more than just our physical assistance with tasks they used to do themselves (i.e., yard work, more difficult household chores, etc.), knowing where to start and how to begin is daunting at best. Often, children live in denial because they simply don’t know what to do first. And, if the parent is also in denial and refusing help, the issues are compounded.

I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve been on this journey for about five years now. I’ve made mistakes, done a lot of the right things and learned an enormous amount. What follows are some of my best “getting started” tips. And by getting started, I mean BEFORE you’re really needed as a caregiver.

Schedule a family meeting

I’m an only child. If you are, too, you can skip this step. That’s probably the only pass you’re going to get along the care-giving path! For the rest of you, sit down and talk about it! Don’t wait until an event (illness, fall, stroke, etc.) forces the issue. Sit down together when emotions aren’t running high and no one is stressed out by the circumstances and have a frank discussion. Who is willing and able to do what? What plans need to be made about future living arrangements? How will any care be financed? Include your loved ones in the conversation if possible. There is a wealth of information on family meetings on the internet. This is one article I like.

Consult an elder-care attorney

Learn the differences between medical and financial powers of attorney and guardianship. Figure out what is likely to best suit the needs of your situation. This article offers an overview of the difference between POA and guardianship, but each state is likely to have its own nuances. If these documents aren’t already in place, do it! Don’t wait!

Meet your loved one’s doctors

Attend a routine appointment with your loved one. Accompany him or her into the exam room to meet the doctor. Allow your loved one to introduce you and explain you’ll be the caregiver when the time comes. Make sure you are listed on all medical records as someone to whom the provider can release information. HIPPA laws will make it very difficult for you to help your loved one if this is not in place. Further details can be found in this article.

Discuss financial arrangements

Whether you meet with your loved one’s financial advisor, attorney or simply go over documents with your loved one, it’s important to know what assets are available to finance the care of your loved one, where they are held and how to access them when they’re needed. Eldercare.gov offers some tips here.

Explore Resources

Well before the tough decisions need to be made, begin looking for support services such as mobile meals, home care services, area offices on aging, Veteran’s Administration offices, senior centers and more in your local area. I strongly encourage you to find and join a support group for caregivers. This is the best decision I’ve made as a caregiver, bar none! Not only has it given me an outlet to discuss my feelings and talk to others who can relate to what I’m going through, but it has been the greatest source of knowledge and information for all aspects of care-giving.

So, no, caregiving is not for sissies, but, taking these five steps, before your loved ones are in dire need of help will go a long way to ensure that everyone is able to navigate through the process with a sense of peace and it will ease tensions and fears of the unknown for all involved. In this case, ignorance is most surely NOT bliss, but knowledge IS power!

Of course parents aren’t the only people we care for. Often it’s a spouse, a sibling, a child. While I write about my experience, which revolves  around caring for my mom, my aunt, and, to a lesser degree, my mother-in-law, I want to be sure to acknowledge that folks in these other care-giving roles have it just as tough, maybe more-so.

If you’ve already begun navigating the care-giving maze, what is one thing you’re so thankful you did at the beginning or one thing you wish you had done that you didn’t?

Take care of you.

keep-calm-and-take-care-of-you-13One of my favorite movies of all time is Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts and Laura San Giacomo play friends and roommates who are prostitutes–dangerous work. Whenever they say goodbye to one another, they say the same thing.

“Take care of you.”

I’m not a prostitute.

I’m a wife.

I’m the mother of four young children.

I’m the caregiver of my mother who has Alzheimer’s.

I’m stressed out.

I’m overweight.

I’m tired.

I hear the words over and over in my head. “Take care of you.” “Take care of you.” “Take care of you.”

I hear it at my support group. I read it on some of my favorite blogs and magazines. I see it on TV.

Easier said than done! But I’m learning.

I’ve joined a support group. This is THE single best decision I’ve made along the way. It is a source of information, resources and emotional support. I’ve never missed a meeting!

I’m learning to say, “No.” That’s a tough one for me. I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life. I like to help people. I also like to feel needed. So, when someone asks me to do something, my knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Sure, I’d love to!” In the last year, I’ve scaled back my volunteering. I now focus my efforts on only those things that really bring me true enjoyment. If the activity causes me stress, I don’t do it.

I also cancelled a family reunion I was to host this summer. That was hard for me to do. I love my family and don’t get to see them often. If I put it off, will my mom still be here? Will she still know them? I’ve wanted to cancel it for awhile. But, I kept telling myself not to make the decsion on a day when I was stressed out…but to make it on a day when I’m not. Then it hit me: I’m almost always stressed out!

I’m asking for help. Another tough one. I think  I’m generally thought of as self-reliant and strong. It’s difficult to admit that I can’t do it all.

I write about my feelings. This blog is a great source of therapy for me. If I am able to help anyone along the way, so much the better. I don’t publish everything I write. Some of it is too emotional. Maybe one day I’ll share those writings, but not yet.

What I don’t do is eat right or exercise. The eating thing is really tough. I’m an emotional eater. If I don’t get this under control, I’ll weigh 600 pounds before this caregiving journey is over. Exercise is tough, too. It’s hard to find time for it. But I must! I’m not getting any younger and it’s not going to get any easier!

What do you do to maintain your sanity as a caregiver…whether you’re caring for your kids or an aging loved one–or both, like I am? I’d love to hear from you!

Take care of you!

Too Chaotic for My Chaotic Bliss

I last blogged about 6 1/2 months ago. I was elated when I wrote that post . Michael had just been hired after a long layoff. Just six weeks later, he was laid off again as the start-up company quickly realized they’d hired more people than they could afford at such an early point. He wasn’t the only casualty, but that was little consolation.

What ensued was 3-4 months of chaos–and nothing about it was blissful. I’m not going to go into a lot of details, but suffice it to say we were sinking fast. And I guess, maybe it wasn’t fast. Afterall, the initial layoff began on August 20, 2008, so it had been nearly 2 years. Hope was hard to come by. Faith was being tested. Life pretty much stunk.

During all of this financial stress, I had another major stressor in my life. My mother and her continuing decline into dementia.

I have truly never known such stress, such despair, such an overwhelming feeling of, well, being overwhelmed. (Let’s not forget I’m the mother of 4 young children).

My prayers shifted their focus. Instead of  just praying for blessings on our family, my prayers became desperate. Something had to give. I believe the Lord won’t allow you to go through more than you can handle–

1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

but, I was truly reaching the end of my rope. Something had to give. You know, I’m very familiar with the first part of the Bible verse above. But I found myself forgetting, maybe doubting the last part–”He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Then came August. Our darkest month financially.

My friend Elizabeth told me about a support group for caregivers of dementia patients. Oh, my gosh! Talk about a gift from God! Our group met weekly for  the first month, and now we meet monthly. I have learned so much and am so much better equipped to handle my mother’s care now than I was before.

Out of the blue, the ladies from my church took up a collection and provided us with a gift card to help with back to school shopping.

By the end of August, Michael’s freelance work was really picking up again.

September was a good month, too. But by mid-month, it got really good!

He landed a terrific job! Two days before he was contacted about the job he said, “When it’s right, it will be easy.” Well, I guess so! This opportunity came looking for him. It’s quite literally his dream job. You can read his take on his blog at Mike’s Points.com.

The Sunday after he was offered the job, I sat in Bible study at church and listened as the teacher read the following passage to us from James 1:

 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

and,

12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

I doubt it was coincidence that those passages were the focus of our discussion that day.

Michael started his job on October 4. We’re adjusting to another new normal. It’s a good adjustment to make.

Life’s less chaotic and more blissful now.

Thank you,  God!