Have you ever encountered a time when the person you came to visit wasn’t contributing much to the conversation? We all know that a common way to get a conversation going is by asking a few questions –right? But after a few of your go-to questions, you just aren’t getting anywhere. So, you ask a few more questions...
Now you start feeling more like Barbara Walters than yourself and you’re wondering how she is feeling about all the questions too! Yikes! This is not the direction you hoped for. What to do?
Let’s step back and see what we can notice about this situation.
The person you are visiting may be more on the introverted side, maybe a little shy if you are new to her, or maybe she is feeling a little anxious because she’s having trouble finding the words to match her thoughts. Perhaps she is having a tougher day with more confusion and answers are harder to find. All of these can be challenging for her and for her visiting Friend.
Perhaps there are possibilities available that can direct a visiting Friend.
Sitting together with her in the common area of her care facility means there is usually a lot of different things you can look at together. People watching is always interesting. It can be a good way to engage in a variety of short and simple topics to observe, discuss and comment on. Pretty colors, stylish clothes, what others are doing to name a few. This can spark memories and open-ended questions. For someone introverted, it means the focus is not on her. For someone having difficulties expressing themselves, this can be an enjoyable activity that makes her feel included without the pressures of having to “know the answers”.
You can try an experiment like “going fishing”!
I’m not talking about bringing Hip Waders and tackle to your next visit. What I mean is to bring along something that is interesting and active –say knitting or a simple but repetitive craft. Something that involves action while being seated and some sort of materials. [This is baiting the hook.] Sitting at a table together in a common area, you take out this activity and invite her to join you. If she declines but is interested in what you are doing, that is fine! Keep doing it. You will find in a short period of time other residents will be attracted to your table. [Reeling them in.] They will be curious to know what you are doing. With these additional people around, the conversations will take off. You and the one you are visiting will be engaged and it will be on her own terms. The pressure will be off her and there will be lots to enjoy and take in. Including her in the conversation, gives others a chance to get to know her. Giving her time to speak up and share if she wants to, takes the pressure off, and makes it a wonderful and inclusive time for her, for you and the others. You are creating an opportunity for her to be part of something bigger. This is especially good if she was having troubles meeting others or was new to the facility.
So, save your questions, notice what cues and clues she is giving you and don’t be afraid to try some experimentation. A little creativity can open a whole new world for her and you both will have fun!
In a world that never sleeps, where more is perceived as better, where most things today are disposable and what others think of you online or in the all-too-rare “face-to-face” encounters, I believe a significant lesson can be learned from our more vulnerable seniors.
The lesson is to slow down and make a conscious and deliberate choice to be present in the moment with not only yourself but also the other human beings around you. There’s something unseen that is exchanged between two people when this happens.
The experience can be with or without words and the activity itself is really secondary to the feelings that develop when two human beings really connect. I feel we, as a society, have forgotten this. It’s a wonderful experience to return to when we decide that it really does matter.
Another lesson (and there are so many!), that we can learn from seniors is remembering to appreciate the small things.
While visiting a gentleman in a Calgary facility, I couldn’t help but smile so wide, I was sure it was ear to ear the whole time I was with him. I took him out for a drive around the area and he was so impressed by everything he saw, it was as if it were the first time seeing it. He was amazed at the other vehicles on the highway and how far technology has advanced! He was delighted by the children at the playground and how inquisitive and smart they were! He marveled at the size and architectural design of the building he lived in – when we returned. EVERYTHING he saw was amazing! He appreciated everything he saw without judgment. He had so much gratitude for it simply being as it was! It was infectious and made a big impression on me and everyone he came in contact with.
Our world changes when we see things and people around us as miraculous. You know what? I think that is the secret to a happy life!
We drive in them, we walk through them, we curse their existence! The deeper the ruts, the more we complain. Whether they are built out of snow and ice or mud and water, they arise every year much to our chagrin.
What about some other types of ruts? Some may call them habits or routines. Nothing against the familiar; the familiar can be satisfying, predictable, even enjoyable.
Until it isn’t. Then it becomes a rut.
We are wired to like the familiar. Our brains learn from repetition and look for the shortest, easiest way to get something done, to save energy and time, sometimes at the cost of creativity and pleasure that comes from variety.
Visiting aging loved ones can become a very familiar experience to the family. Have you caught yourself playing out the entire visit ahead of time in your imagination before you even arrive? Predicting the same old conversations, reactions, and responses you will get from your loved one? Perhaps you even calculate when your visit will end.
Does this sound familiar? Then you are in a rut!
It’s time to shake things up, for the sake of your loved one and for you! You have no time to spare.
Whether your loved one lives in a care facility or at home, there are many ways to add variety to your visits. Here are a few ideas to get you going!
These are just a few ideas to inspire you. It is easy to make a simple change. Doing so will help you and your aging loved one have more meaningful and fulfilling time together. Your relationship will deepen, and it will be time well spent for both of you. Get yourself out of the rut.
This Year Change Things Up!
Another year has begun, why do things the same ol' way? How about injecting some FUN and see what happens!
Watch the video below for a unique and creative idea that is sure to please. It may be the start of a new approach to inject some added FUN into caregiving!
(The start of the video is a little slow but it gets better! Was just a little nervous when I made it.)
Hope it inspires you and makes you laugh!
It's that time of year again! Planning your Christmas list ideas for all the people you love. Are you finding it extra difficult this year to think of what to get your aging loved one?
Watch the video below for a unique and creative idea that is sure to please. It may also be the start of a new tradition. (The start of the video is a little slow but it gets better! Was just a little nervous when I made it.)
Enjoy the inspiration!
When You’re In A Hurry
Have you ever found yourself in a hurry to get something done? You know, like trying to get out the door with an arm full of stuff only to have your purse strap or jacket get caught on the door handle. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the annoyance! Understandably, this can be frustrating to no end.
Life is busy. There is so much we want to do and need to do in the day or week or longer. There is much to be done for yourself and for your aging loved one. It’s no wonder life feels like it’s speeding by and you’re playing catch up.
Wouldn’t it be great if those frustrations and annoyances could be reduced?
While we don’t have the ability to order life to behave, we can remember to look in the mirror. We can use the following three tools that are always available to us anytime and anywhere.
Laugh. It just feels better! Just as you would laugh at a character in a movie, go ahead and laugh at the moment you are in now.
Reframe. This is the secret sauce! While laughter helps you stop and really have a look at what happened and is going on, reframing helps you find a lesson. The strap caught on the door could be your physical reminder to help you slow down and stay centered on the task at hand rather than on the future. Maybe slowing down means a safer car ride to your destination. Maybe being centered makes your visit with your loved one better and more valuable.
Surrender. Really, what else is there to do? Life is going to be what it is. You can try to fight it or you can find the flow and go with it. If you need a break to recharge your energy or to gain a fresh perspective, then do it.
So, the next time you notice frustration or annoyances creeping up, remember these three tools. See the difference and the impact this can have on you, your aging loved one, and everything that needs doing.
What can you let go of?
Being a family caregiver for your aging loved one is a big deal. Your family places immense trust in you and to make difficult decisions.
As your loved one’s health and care needs change, additional support may be needed. Think of it like clearing a path to a destination: you have to look where you’re going and be careful that everyone stays on track! That can be a lot of pressure, particularly if your tendency is to always do what you think is “right”.
Don’t get me wrong, I know the value of Right. If you’re someone who gathers the facts, weighs the differences, and proceeds with caution, then you know what I am talking about when I use the word Right. I’m referring to the Right answer, the Right next step, the Right words to say.
The promise of Right is safety, security, comfort, and peace of mind.
Not as obvious, though, is the cost of Right. These costs include stress, pressure, time, and indecision. It is tempting to find relief by just “doing things my way”. But, as I’m sure you know, that can cause big problems quickly!
Right can be blindfolding you and preventing you from seeing what might be in front of you. What if that blindfold could be removed?
A simple shift to practice as you gather your research and facts is to take a pause and a step back. Then, rather than reaching for the question “what is right?”, ask “What would dad (or your loved one) do/choose if he was caregiving his parent?”
Now you are coming from a place tailored to your loved one, his needs, and the support he would accept and benefit from rather than from a generalized strategy created via the data. You are coming from an intuitive place and where you can include him (depending on his abilities) in the decision process. This feels good. This is trust.
In making a simple shift like this, you can release some of the pressure and more clearly understand how to adapt to changing health and care needs. To learn more about adding tailored support for your loved one, please visit www.getafriendindeed.com.
Being a family caregiver is a big deal and you don’t have to do it all on your own.
The Greatest Story You Have
Stories also have a way of transporting us back in time. Imagine how your aging loved one would feel getting lost while retelling the wonderful stories from her life.
Hearing our loved one’s Life Story teach us about where we come from and who we are.
You can use your loved one’s Life Story in your caregiver approach and practices. Key details in her story that can be very helpful in maintaining a healthy relationship, providing reassurance and comfort – particularly during or after a big change, like a move.
Relating back to past experiences where she succeeded or helped another can provide such reassure for her.
Your loved one’s Life Story can also be beneficial in another way. Communicating key details to support staff or support individuals in her life can help reveal qualities about her personality and preferences. How she expresses himself [“Call me Betty.” VS “You can call me Mrs. Johnson”], how she sees and responds to circumstances [She was an accountant who prided herself on performance excellence VS she is a fine artist who focused on metal sculpture]. Insights to her preferences [“I would like a snack –something crunchy will do.” VS “It is time for my 2pm Earl Grey and biscuit."].
Access to one’s Life Story can provide great insight which is needed for positive and meaningful interactions-- increasing the quality of time spent together. Stories help build an understanding of who your loved one is. Her uniqueness of the individual she is!
It is the only thing we have. This very moment.
My hope for you is that you feel well, safe, secure, and even happy in this moment.
As a family caregiver to an aging loved one, some moments are very joyful while other moments can be tough to get through. Frustration, anxiety over the uncertainty, even loneliness can appear. Guilt is usually never far away either, right?
When you catch yourself in moments that don’t feel good, please remember, and act on these two things:
You are doing great! Do you know how I can say that? It’s because you are doing the best YOU can with what you have and what you know!
And when you don’t know something, you reach out to learn something new or different to try. That marks a person for greatness!
Continue to reach out. Continue to learn. Find out other ways to do things, to respond to situations, to gain a bigger perspective on it.
This moment is all we have.
This very moment.
One day it will be in the past to reflect on. I hope it makes you smile. You know, from that bigger perspective. 😊
Am I Being Selfish About This?
You know what? It's ok to make time for YOU. It is NOT being selfish. More than likely, your kids are calling on you more, your spouse is calling on you more and it is becoming harder to find that special "You Time". Time to recharge and re-energize yourself. Your cup is draining quickly, and the bottom line is… you can't pour from an empty cup!
You are a family Caregiver. You love your loved one- there is no denying that. The fact is, caregiving, in all capacities, takes a lot of time, effort and physical and emotional energy, it is easy to become overwhelmed and anxious when you feel like it is all on your shoulders. It is crucial to take good care of yourself.
One way to take good care of yourself is to watch your thoughts.
Caregiving is one of those roles where you do the best you can, and all the while you need to be diligent to ensure your thoughts “won’t take you out”! I’m talking about nagging thoughts like “you’re not doing this”, “you’re doing too much of that” along with the dreaded “What if…?”
Check in with yourself when you notice these thought patterns coming up. Use your awareness of their cycling as a trigger to stop. Catch it in the act and redirect to thoughts that are more useful, peaceful and energy restoring.
Another way to take care of yourself is to take time for yourself.
It is not selfish. Start by building a Support Network around you. Take inventory of all the people you know. Reconnect with them, whatever that looks like, and share what you are looking for, what kind of support you need, the time commitment and if they are someone you could call in a pinch. Let them know that you can provide the guidance they need to be able to be a successful support with your loved one. Next, research the community supports and services in your area and phone them to see what they can offer at this time. Ask questions and get information specific to your situation. This research will help you know who is available and how they can help you and your loved one. You can build a schedule around the needs of your loved one.
Building and using a Support Network will give your loved one new interactions and experiences to enjoy while you can have some time to go out and see something new or rest and recharge. There is no prize for doing it all by yourself but huge rewards to both you and your loved one when you keep yourself well.
Reaching out and accepting help is essential for you and your loved one’s well-being, after all, Caregiving is a marathon not a sprint.