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.
The last days of summer aren’t guaranteed.
I wanted to a do a little writing on this Sunday afternoon of the long weekend. The weather is pretty nice. Rather than grab a laptop and get it all setup, I opted for a simple pen and paper. After all, I’m just going to jot down a few notes outside in the backyard, in the shade of our tree.
I decide to let the dog and the cat out too. Our cat is confined to only our backyard and only when someone is outside with him. He likes to explore the garden and I’m sure in his mind becomes invisible or maybe he is satisfying some primal instinct of being a great hunter.
Anyways, this is the plan.
Procrastination has been on my mind lately and I notice an inner struggle. All the things that need to be done, take time to do and somewhere in all of that is the need to rest.
I’m practicing observing. Observing how I feel when thoughts come up. I’m also practicing detachment. Key word = practicing. This is so I don’t let a thought take me down a rabbit hole and bring along my feelings and emotions with it. Nope, writing will be good to do today, even if I just get a couple of topics or a few lines done. It will be a start and that will feel good.
I set up my chair in the shade of our tree. I notice the waterfall for our little pond in the garden is not running. That can be left for another day because I’m going to write and relax outside in my backyard.
Where’s the cat?
I get up to look in the garden and he is behind the pond. I see all the leaves in the water, which caused the pump to stop working. I see a dead baby bird in the water. My goodness, so sad. I bless it and decide that it can’t wait, the pond must be cleaned right now.
The baby bird didn’t have his eyes opened yet, just little. There are trees around but no nests. I assume it was dropped after a raid. I scoop him up and remove the debris. The water is sucked up with the wet vac. Fresh water is replaced and with a little work, the pump gets the water flowing again.
Where’s the cat?
Ah! Still exploring the backyard. I take the garbage to the alley and go in to wash up. I can’t wait to sit outside and do some writing!
I come back with a glass of water and put it beside my chair in the shade. The dog comes over. He would like some attention. Not now, I’m going to sit in the shade and do some writing. So, I grab his toy, a snack dispensing ball and get a handful of kibbles to put in it. He happily knocks it around the lawn hoping a kibble falls out as a reward for his effort. I don’t like the feel and smell of the kibble on my hand, so I go in yet again to quickly wash up. I’m so looking forward to sitting in my chair, in the shade to do some writing. I open the door and the cat is running my way. He’s ready to come back inside and that is fine by me. I get to now sit in the shade, in my chair and do some writing. It’s going to feel great!
I move my chair, yet again to ensure I will be in the shade for some time as the sun moves throughout this afternoon. I sit down and our old, secondhand lawn chair rips so badly that half of my bottom is right through the canvas. I look up and I laugh! Holding onto my pen and paper so they don’t blow away, I struggle to get out of the broken, reclined chair. I fold it up, put it aside and grabbed the other chair from the matching set. Yes, it did occur to me that the odds may not be in my favor, but I was going to sit in my chair, in the shade and do some writing this afternoon. And I was going to feel great!
The second chair holds! I am finally about to start writing and my husband, now home from work, opens the back door and greets me! I laugh again and he asks what’s going on. I said, “You have to sit here while I tell you what has gone on for the last 45 minutes or so.” We laughed and he goes back inside.
With the dog asleep at my feet, I now have been writing outside while sitting in my chair in the shade and it does feel great!
How does this relate to being a caregiver?
We know that well intentioned plans can sometimes get derailed –whether momentarily or for longer and that is ok.
Sometimes we need to keep trying despite obstacles and other times to just let go. Even though we know it is better to detach from outcomes, it can be hard to keep that objective. We may find ourselves down that rabbit hole without even realizing it, even when it gets silly and all you can do is laugh.
And lastly, taking some downtime just for you is necessary. To replenish your energy, stamina and take care of your needs for a little while. It is easy to look after one more thing, two more things, but before you know it the shade has passed, your butt is stuck in a lawn chair and the dog is wondering what the heck is wrong with you. The last days of summer, in the shade and all you can do is laugh at it all.
The time is now to preserve your loved one's teachings, stories, memories and more! As a living link between your parents and your children, you can keep your Dad's stories and jokes alive to share with your children and their children when the time comes. Don't break that chain!
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’s exchanged 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!) 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. The other vehicles on the highway and how far technology has advanced! The children at the playground and how inquisitive and smart they were! The size and architecture of the building he lived in – when we returned, all of it was amazing! He appreciated everything he saw without judgment and with 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. The world changes when we see things as miraculous.
Stories also have a way of transporting us back in time. Imagine how your mom would feel getting lost in the wonderful stories from her life. Stories have a way of teaching us where we’ve come from. Imagine your future children or grandchildren learning and experiencing your mom and hearing her stories generation after generation. Teaching them a little more of where they come from.
Last month we spoke about the significance of capturing a loved one’s Life Story. It was mentioned that the key details from the story can be very powerful in building relationships and providing comfort in new surroundings, after a move.
Stories also have a way of transporting us back in time. Imagine how your mom would feel being lost in the wonderful stories from her life. Stories have a way of teaching us where we’ve come from. Imagine your future children or grandchildren learning and experiencing your mom and hearing her stories generation after generation. Teaching them a little more of where they come from.
The Life Story can also be beneficial in another way. Key details reveal qualities about the individual’s personality and preferences. How he expresses himself [“Call me Bill.” VS “You can call me Mr. Johnson”], how he sees and responds to circumstances [he was an accountant who prided himself on performance excellence VS he is a fine artist who focused on metal sculpture]. Insights to his 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.
For the gentleman who prefers to be addressed by his surname, who values details and precision and who keeps to a defined daily regime-- he will have a different experience in his day, have different expectations from others and require a different approach than the laid back, artistic fellow who enjoys variety and the spirit of the unknown. For anyone wanting to be a part of someone's life, each person needs to be honored as they are.
Understanding your loved one's Life Story is important in building and maintaining a healthy relationship. Preserving those "Life Stories" is important too!
What sums up a life? What makes it into your Life Story? You’ve had so many experiences in life- some you would label good and others bad. Everything else is a measurement in-between. If you were to create your Life Story, what would make the cut? What moments have you forgotten? What lessons are so close to you that you can’t even “see” them anymore because they are so much a part of you now? And hey, what about the fact that you are still living? Essentially still writing your story! Who is to say that your biggest life lessons aren’t still to come? Who is to say that the biggest breakthroughs and “Ah-ha” moments aren’t ready to reveal themselves in the next few years, days or even hours.
One thing you know is so far, your life (or rather your experiences in life), have shaped you into the You that you are today. You are still being shaped regardless of your age. A person’s needs can change throughout their life. We wrote about Needs previously. Consider the experience of an individual of a certain age, who is moving out of his longtime family home to somewhere with more support for his current needs. The move is an adjustment to routine, with new faces, new food, new address and phone number- new everything! Change isn’t necessarily bad, but it is different, and it takes time to establish his bearings. It takes time to become comfortable while settling into the new space. Consider that this individual has some memory impairment. Building those new bearings and comfort can be more challenging.
Enter in the power of the Life Story. Imagine how would the staff at the care facility relate to this gentleman better when they knew key details that define (in his eyes) who he is in his life. Imagine the depth of relationship he would have with a supportive companion who knew that he prided himself as a community involved man in his younger years of retirement. Imagine the quality of their time together when it is evolved around more meaningful activities and conversations that encompasses and celebrates those key details from his Life Story. It sets up the opportunity to create the space for new experiences, learnings and exploration together even at this time of his life. Giving him the opportunity to continue adding more chapters to his Life Story.
Be kind to others and be kind to yourself… that’s all that is needed.
That is your part and my part to make the world a better place for us all.
I'M FEELING OVERWHELMED WITH THIS CAREGIVER ROLE AND IT IS IMPACTING THE OTHER AREAS OF MY LIFE. AM I BEING SELFISH ABOUT THIS?
Caregiving: It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint.
It's important we revisit this topic every once in a while to remind ourselves it's ok to make time for YOU and it's NOT being selfish, especially now in the "new normal" times we are currently in. More than likely, your kids are home more, your spouse is home more and it's not easy to find your "you time" that you would normally use to recharge and re-energize yourself. 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 need to be diligent and 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.
What Our Seniors Have To Say Can Make All The Difference To Those Who Are Listening.
The effects of social distancing is taking its toll on families and maintaining family connection between the generations is more difficult than ever now. This time we spend at a distance, we will never get back. This is why we can not afford to wait any longer. Our generation and those before us have missed out on truly learning about what life was like and who our elders really were. Yes, we have old photographs and remnants of stories passed down, but to actually SEE and HEAR the voices of those from our past is something that would be irreplaceable today. This pandemic has been difficult in so many ways. Seniors are kept separate for their safety and they are finding it difficult to remain engaged. Storytelling and reminiscing are effective ways to not only feel better connected but also boost their mood and overall outlook during this trying time. We will not get this time back again. Our grandparents and parents will not be around forever. Now is the time to capture their stories, as told by them, before they are forgotten and gone forever.
Musings & Memoirs, Your Video Storytelling Production was created to capture these stories and turn them into a treasured keepsake for the family now and for future generations to come. Knowing who came before, how they lived and what life was like, makes it easier for others to relate to something bigger and to know themselves a little better.
REAL Stories about REAL moments with REAL loved ones. A precious keepsake for you now and for generations to come.
Heading into the Holiday Season, we all know things are going to look/ feel/ be different. However you decide to celebrate the holidays this year, you can still hold close your loved ones – even if you can't be “together” as you normally would.
An important word is coming to mind – Gratitude.
Even though we may feel we are “losing out” by not getting to spend traditional time with our loved ones over the holidays- there are so many things to be grateful for. We can have gratitude for our loved ones’ health as well as our own. Gratitude for being able to see their faces, hear their voices and laughter even if through a screen. We can have gratitude for the guidance we receive. For doing our part and being able to help them do their best to navigate through unchartered waters in these unprecedented times. Gratitude for all the distractions, even if they give temporary relief in the moment. Gratitude for being able to appreciate our present moments. Moments that have always existed but were most often pushed to the side.
There is real beauty that we cannot ignore.
This time is different, this time is new.
One day we will look back. Look back at what happened, look back at the decisions made and actions taken and not taken. But hopefully, as we look back, we also see the miracles that surfaced when we did not have anywhere else to be or anything else to do.
We are so grateful to support our families and their aging loved ones the way we do –even during such trying times. May you continue to be safe, feel loved and see the quiet miracles in the day.
It is a slippery slope. We all know what it feels like when our diet is off. When good, nutritious food is replaced by lower quality, convenience food, or no food at all (skipped meals)- our body feels terrible, our mood goes downhill, and our whole outlook takes a nosedive. Many times, when we are in that fog, we don’t see it. We just know it feels awful and it is hard to see through it.
For an aging loved one who wishes to remain on their own in their home, it is on them to prepare and consume the right nutrition to maintain good health- which in turn enables them to remain at home. The problem arises when, over time, a sneaky intruder comes on the scene. That intruder comes in the form of procrastination and speaks two words.
“Why bother” are two dangerous words to live on your own by. The longer a person waits to make a change, the tougher it becomes and the stronger the habit develops. For a senior who lives on their own, it might seem like there is no problem. A little laziness, a little convenience- no big deal right?! For one day it is not a big deal. For one week- probably still manageable. But when poor eating habits are repetitive, the body will speak out and will speak out loudly in the effort to be heard.
When you visit, if you are finding a lack of food or spoiled food in the fridge, if you notice your loved one is loading up on TV dinners and other high sodium and low quality foods, or notice a change in their tone to the sound, similar to “why bother”, it might be time to learn more of what is going on and what is NOT going on.
You know from experience that being proactive opens the door to ease in change. A well designed offer of support before things go too far is helpful and less intrusive to risk control. Being inclusive and bringing your loved one on board is easier when the idea is simple and straightforward. “To try it out”.
Earlier this year I collaborated with Steph Todd of www.mealplanaddict.com. Together we created a step by step process to help families who have concerns about their aging loved one’s nutritional health and eating habits, while living on their own. It is a way to support their wishes to remain at home AND ensure good eating habits to keep them there longer.
You can find it here… https://www.getafriendindeed.com/library.html
Of course, if you need some help or find that your schedule just won’t allow for it, feel free to reach out. Our Friends will be happy to help!