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!
Last month we mentioned how using strategic little cues for a loved one with memory impairment can make a big difference in keeping a greater sense of independence. When determining what cues to put in place, first identify where, when and how your loved one is struggling and the resulting impact from it.
Perhaps she is having trouble with her morning routine. Her usual routine had always included getting up, making the bed, picking out and then changing into daytime clothes, washing her face and then brushing her hair. The steps are in a reasonable order and the routine is very relatable. I’ll bet you do them without even paying attention to it –it’s just what you do every morning! Each step builds on the last to arrive at an expected outcome –being dressed and ready for the day ahead. An individual with memory impairment may need the use of cues to help her along the process. Let’s say this lady gets stuck at the clothes part and you find that she is wearing the same clothes day after day. Because you know her and her preferences, this is something she would never do. This is the impact of a failing routine. [Now keep in mind when looking at the impact of a failing routine, you would also factor in the level of risk it has to the person. In this example, not changing her clothes as frequent as she did before is not life threatening. Knowing her preferences and personality and yes, if left long enough this failed routine would interfere with a healthy lifestyle not to mention be very hard on her clothes, so additional support is needed.]
Consider her personality. Has she always been a list maker? Would she benefit from a well-placed list entitled “Morning Routine” with the steps laid out in point form? Perhaps her hamper is changed to one with a lid. On the lid is a label that says, “dirty clothes” or “Needs to be washed”. The label and the lid are additional barriers to what she doesn’t want. Perhaps the Morning Routine List includes another strategic step such as “pick out clothes from your dresser” to also help direct her. The list would be posted in an appropriate place where it won’t be moved or in the way of the process itself. Make it attention grabbing without interfering with the message. It must be clear. The writing is large enough even without glasses. Test it out over a few days and track the results. Tweak as needed. Make sure everyone who comes in contact with her is aware of your cues, so they are not tampered with.
Having little cues in the right places will help maintain her routine and maintain a sense of comfort and independence in her life. You and your loved one will feel happier for it.
Have you ever traveled and checked into a hotel? (Think way back to pre-Covid times!) I had to go to Toronto for a seminar years ago. I got off the plane and followed the directions and the crowd to the baggage area. Signage helped me locate the correct turnstile, I kept an eye out for my bags. Colour and a distinguishing feature helped me recognize them coming down the chute, I grabbed them and was on my way to find a taxi to take me to the hotel. This was the first time in Toronto and I relied on the cab driver to safely bring me to the hotel in the most efficient and direct route. I trusted him to do his job and he did. I was happy and felt cared for.
At the hotel, there were more cues and signs that helped me understand where I needed to go and get the help I needed. The lady at the desk asked me a series of questions and my answers gave her the information she needed to give me back what I wanted- a nice, comfortable, secure room. She did her job. I was happy and felt cared for.
Signage, processes and invested people who are ready and willing to step into service to assist, all work together as a system to help individuals get want they want. In this case, it was my bags, a ride and a room. When systems are not in place or they are unreliable, then the process can cause upset, frustration and even panic.
Change in general, even in the slightest of ways, demands more from a person- more concentration, a higher level of listening and a greater ability to process information. Step into the shoes of a person who has just moved into an assisted care facility. A new space, sights, sounds and faces to take in. The individual may be wrestling internally with perceived expectations of others who are new to their world. People like other residents who may be confused or who require support in ways different to the individual.
This is where little cues can be a big help. Aside from the standard and expected signage to help navigate a new resident to the dining room or activity room, and the uniform colors worn by staff to differentiate their roles, there are lots of opportunities to create and include other cues specific to the individual’s needs. In a hallway with many doors, a family can decorate their loved one’s door specific highlighting what makes that individual special. (Remember when we discussed the importance of knowing & understanding one’s “life story”?) Perhaps it is an ornamental dog that sits on the floor by her door. She can see it farther down the hall and associates it with her room. Perhaps she enjoyed painting. Displaying one of her paintings- like the one of a barn and horse from where she raised her family, will create the recognition as well as a chance to reminisce. These are a couple of examples that fulfill a helpful role. Repeatedly it reinforces: “This is my room.” or “I used to live on a farm and we had horses.” or “I love colors and painting.” These all contribute to the feelings of comfort and security. Like me in Toronto- feeling happy and cared for.
Move Those Dark Clouds Away!
Dark clouds. We see them almost any time of the year. They usually signify a change coming. Wet weather, perhaps cold, causing us to seek shelter, hunker down and keep close everything that we feel we need to keep ourselves comfortable until they pass. Figuratively, when a dark cloud comes, it means that a heavy feeling is upon us. This makes us tired, perhaps sad and can cause the same sensations mentioned above that move us to seek comfort and protect ourselves from them. They can really grab hold and if they do, it feels like the dark cloud might stay forever. Until we realize, we remember that dark clouds have come before. We remember the work and tools we have and can help ourselves and move the clouds on. Thank goodness for that.
What if you see the dark cloud over your loved one? Meaning- what if your loved one has developed a bleak outlook on life. Perhaps she is processing a big change- in location, the passing of a spouse, or a health concern. You honor how she feels, talk with her and you do your best to support her but if over time you find you are running low on energy, you may ask yourself “do I keep trying?”.
The answer is yes. First, recoup your energy and take care of YOU, so you can put your detective hat back on to investigate a little more the circumstances of the situation and your loved one. Take note of any changes you see- behavior, outlook and overall ability to take care of herself are a few places to start. If you haven’t yet, make an appointment to see her doctor. Discuss if there have been any major changes in her life and share your concerns. Have the doctor review the list of medications to be sure there aren’t any working against one another. Is loneliness a factor? Grief? How is her diet? Once you start investigating, the clues will direct you. Find out what community resources are available. Remember to reach out to your Circle of Support for ideas and references. Remember the tools you use to help yourself and see if your loved one is open to them.
Above all, keep yourself well as you go through this process of discovery. By doing so, your loved one has the best chances of moving those dark clouds away!