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.
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. 😊
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.
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!
So, who are you? A realist? And optimist? A pessimist? A creative? A butcher, baker or candlestick maker?
For most people, they will answer… “well, it depends.”
Sure, it does! It can depend on the time of day, your mood, the traffic, the current circumstances you find yourself in, your thoughts of how others are (or will be) when you interact with them later that day, and more.
As a family caregiver for an aging loved one, you probably have them “all figured out” –right?! After all, you have been with this person your whole life!
Consider that you have been with many different versions of this person your whole life.
So what? You ask.
So, if there can be many different versions of a person, then there is room for possibilities, for potential, for exploration.
Offering a wider range of engaging activities for your loved one, may spark wider interests, untapped capabilities, and new opportunities for them to thrive in. Most importantly, the added enjoyment in their day or even just in the present moment, does a wonder of good for their overall well-being and health.
Go ahead and explore or reinvent from the big ol’ tub of possibilities! Half the fun is in the journey to discovery! Need some help with this? Just reach out, there is a lot of “gold” we can find together.
What is a meaningful life? What a big question that is! Have you pondered it before for yourself or for your aging loved one?
Maybe you have reached an answer or maybe it still eludes you. If it has, I encourage you to keep searching for an answer that feels right for you. That feels right for your loved one.
The answer that feels right for me is Meaningful Work. I believe that all humans have a deep desire for Meaningful Work. It can take many forms. It can be your career, your family duties, whatever and however you express who you are. There is a positive outcome because of your Meaningful Work and it usually involves or impacts another person in some way. It feels good to do something that another person will find enjoyment in or benefit from.
I don’t believe we ever finish our Meaningful Work. We don’t retire from it –it just changes form. Our desire for it never leaves but it can get stifled. Our expectations, our health, the people we keep around us, the environment we live in may impact our desire to do Meaningful Work. Sometimes we can change those elements that stifle it so the desire can be expressed. We can also modify our Meaningful Work to accommodate obstacles that cannot be changed.
Seniors are no different. Their obstacles can include not only health issues, transportation, encouragement from others to go for it, but also having access to the opportunity to do Meaningful Work. Seniors living in many care facilities and retirement residences have many of the household tasks done for them. While the benefits of having housekeeping and cooks is obvious, the seniors have to ensure their Meaningful Work is expressed in other ways. This takes some creativity and perhaps encouragement from others. It is too easy to “not bother” and have their world get a little smaller and their desires stifled.
Activities are needed to engage the mind, extend their abilities and keep them moving. Look to your loved one’s life story to figure out what activities and topics of interest would be great to bring back into their life –even if they need to be modified a bit to accommodate their current circumstance. Explore and play. Ensure that your loved ones have access to express themselves through Meaningful Work. Watch them shine! This is the way to continue a Meaning Full life!
Everyone wants to feel of value. They want to be included and they want to participate especially when they know they can succeed.
When a loved one is living with dementia or any challenge(s), at times they (like everyone else on this planet) may need a bit of help accessing something they know they can succeed at! Using a little creativity and a whole lotta playfulness (maybe a little muscle power too!) means that their contribution is absolutely what is needed to help out!
When a loved one is living with dementia or any challenge(s), at times they (like everyone else on this planet) may exhibit challenging or concerning behaviour. Having a curious mind and building your desire to understand what the person is trying to accomplish or... Click on the youtube video below to see more!
With the seasons changing from Summer to Autumn, the weather undoubtedly takes a turn too which means the time with your loved one switches from outdoors to indoors. Finding activities to do indoors can be challenging. When a loved one is living with dementia or any challenge(s), finding the right activities and presenting them in such a way so they are so they are fulfilling and successful. Watch my first "Facebook Live" where I talk about my own personal experiences when it comes to deconstructing activities for success.