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The happy caregiver–is that an oxymoron? Not at all. Yes, caregiving is inherently stressful, but it also has many rewards. A recent study featured on Good Morning America shows that having a positive attitude actually adds years to your life–not to mention its impact on the quality of life from everything from fighting depression to boosting your immune system.  

You may not consider yourself a happy caregiver–not every moment of every day, but it’s not too late to change your ‘tude, or realize you actually have more going for you than you realize. Happy isn’t birthday party giddy. Sometimes happy is about a deep sense of knowing you’re in the right place at the right time–doing the right thing.

The Happy Caregiver:

  • Is caregiving because they want to
  • Knows they’re needed
  • Keeps it in balance
  • Has other things going on–friendships, activities, learning
  • Knows that caregiving won’t last forever
  • Laughs off stress
  • Sometimes yells, sometimes slams doors a bit too hard
  • Asks forgiveness
  • Sees themselves as a part of a tribe
  • Asks for help
  • Doesn’t fall for bullying or manipulation
  • Does what’s best–for everyone
  • Keeps the bigger picture in mind
  • Doesn’t even begin to do it all
  • Can tell a good joke
  • And give a good toast
  • Appreciates the moments of surprize and insight that pop up at the most unusual times
  • Accepts imperfection in herself and others (her is just a place holder–guys care-give, too)
  • Keeps short range and longe range plans and goals in mind
  • Stands up for what’s right
  • Curses–occasionally
  • Knows they’re an advocate, a voice when their care buddy needs them
  • Occasionally exhausts all their resources–physically, emotionally, and spirituallly
  • And knows those resevoirs have to be refilled
  • Has a deep sense of faith and hope
  • Accepts that no one gets out of this world–alive
  • Faces their fear–not because they’re uber brave or crazy-strong–but because it’s the only way
  • When the time comes, they embrace the sweetness and quietness of a good death
  • Gives into grief
  • Relies on friends and family for strength
  • Counts blessings
  • Sees life in its many seasons
  • Sees life as precious, precarious, and profound
  • Reinvents herself/himself again and again and again

Maybe you don’t feel bubbly right now–but I bet you see yourself in a few of the lines above. Caregivers are pretty amazing–and the more you choose to view what you do with a sense of honor and integrity and knowing that every day you make a difference, the more you’ll realize you just might be…a happy caregiver.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available on Kindle

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Randy Pausch died last Friday.

He’s the Carnegie Mellon professor who wrote The Last Lecture.

The book is based off a lecture he gave to his students that received such worldwide attention on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it on YouTube, here’s the link:

It’s not his usual style lecture since he’s a computer geek who teaches about virtual reality.
But Randy contracted pancreatic cancer.
It changes your priorities.
Randy’s last lecture was about play, integrity, falling in love, and purpose.
Randy lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last Friday.
His wife of seven years and three young children will miss him every day.  
He was 38 before he ever found true love.
He said something I’m passing down to my unmarried daughter.
“Don’t get married until you find a guy who has come to the point that your happiness matters more than his.” 
Randy and his family was featured on ABC last night.
It was about the most inspiring thing on television I’ve seen in a long while.
Here’s the link: abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3633945
The Last Lecture (book and video) was written Randy says, not for the masses, but for his children.
He left behind what is referred to as an ethical will.
What is an ethical will?
It’s usually a written document in which you pass down your ethical, spiritual and emotional values.

Here are some common themes seen in many of today’s ethical wills:

  • Important personal values and beliefs
  • Important spiritual values
  • Hopes and blessings for future generations
  • Life’s lessons
  • Love
  • Forgiving others and asking for forgiveness
One such document was written by Barry K. Baines MD. His book is titled, Putting Your Values on Paper
I can say with great pride that Dr. Baines read my book, Mothering Mother and endorsed it.
I didn’t put Randy and Dr. Baines together until just now. Not until I started writing this post.
I love the serendipitous nature of life. No wonder this story moved me so.
Randy’s book and lecture is so about living, really living.
He says it’s about achieving childhood dreams, but I think it’s about capturing the essense of those dreams and living them out every day.
It’s also about who you are and what of “you” do you choose to leave behind.
My adoptive daddy had a profound effect on my life. When he died, I remember asking God to pass down Daddy’s mantel onto me. It’s a religious term that is mentioned in the story of Elijah and Elisha.
In case you don’t know or don’t remember, Elijah was a powerful prophet in the Old Testament. Elisha wanted to be his under study. Elijah told him that the only way that would happen was for him to follow him around everywhere and the moment God took him, Elisha had to be there to catch his “mantel.”
The story goes that a fiery chariot swooped out of the heavens, grabbed Elijah, and as he was snatched away–his cloak fell to the earth and Elisha caught it. Elisha went on to be a power prophet in his own right.
Now this story sounds downright Greek (as in a good yarn of mythical proportions). 
While you may or may not choose to take it literally, it’s about the transfer of power.
It’s about appreticeship and mentoring.
This is what I wanted that I wanted Daddy to pass on to me: 
Daddy posessed quiet power. Wisdom. Strength. Love of family. Dedication.
Honor. Thoughfulness. Old Southerness. Sweetness. Easiness, but with a line of “this is as far as you go.”
No one messed with my daddy. Everyone respected and admired him. Everyone. He had real power.
The kind you earn. The kind earned by staying married, by being a sharp shooter in World War II.
By walking a quiet, good life.
Do you know what the physics equation is of power?
(I watch a lot of TLC, and Discovery Channel).
Power  = Energy Divided by Time
You want to know how to add power to your life?
Put in a chosen amount of energy over a chosen amount of time–and you’ll have the equation to get however much power you want.
Say you want a powerful body. Muscles.
Go to the gym for 45 minutes a day four days a week for six months.
You’ll have power. You’ll have muscles. That simple.
We over-think, try to take shortcuts, and really it’s mathematical. Put in the time. Put in the effort.
What’s this got to do with ethical wills?
Those powerful people in your life–whoever you respect and admire–your dad, a coach, a teacher–you recognize their power, their expertise, the way they make others feel and how they inspire them.
You want some of their power, their inspiration after they’re gone. You don’t want it disappated into the atmosphere.
Like Elisha, ask for it. Put in the time. (He put in ten years)
Maybe this is what caregiving is–putting in the time and being there to catch the mantel.
Ask your loved one to leave a piece of themselves behind.
Ask them to write it down, or video or audio record them.
Get them to tell stories. Ask them who influenced them, who inspired them.
You can download an ethical will form, or you can simply write a letter to those you love.
Caregivers, I urge you to get your loved ones to do this on one form or another. You’ll be glad to have something permanent, something you’ll always treasure.
Randy Pausch inspired a nation.
In a publishing era that seems too often to be more about marketing and hype than substance, a little book and a YouTube video comes along and knocks the world off its feet.
He talked about what matters most–in the end.
Love, family, hard work, truth, play.
His children–and his readers are blessed.

Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated Blog at www.OpentoHope.com

Kunati Publishers, www.kunati.com/mothering-mother-memoir-by-car/ – 95k

 

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It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” — Anne Sexton

Yesterday, while shopping, our youngest daughter asked me if I missed my dad a lot–around Father’s Day.

I told her no. Not on Father’s Day. It’s happens at the oddest times– in the car when all is quiet–when I can’t fix something or I’ve had a fight with someone I love or want someone to be proud of me–that’s when the tears come.

It’s when I need somebody to sit beside. Not to talk to. Just to sit. When I need unsaid wisdom and silent, unconditional love–with no agendas, no expectations. That’s when I miss him. So I go outside and find a place to sit. I’ve sat beside him so many times it feels as if he’s still there. He is.

It’s my dad who taught me about caregiving–a fancy term for just being a family. I can remember that Sunday afternoons were for visiting family–we visited his sister, brothers, nieces–and if anyone were in the hospital, Faithful and tireless, he was a teddy when it came to family.

If your dad’s alive, call him, hug him, make him smile. Even the most tangled relationships have something to be thankful for. Find a way to celebrate. Life has a enough tragedies and I see it all as a giant algebra problem–I need to balance the sides–when something bad happens, I need to help make two good things happen in order to prove to the universe that it all adds up, that life is indeed, good.

Here’s a List of Great Dads Throughout History:

Marcus Aurileus, was the adoptive son of Annius Verus and is known as the “Philosopher-King.” The youth’s education embraced both rhetoric and philosophy; his manner was serious, his intellectual pursuits deep and devoted, so that the emperor Hadrian took an interest in him and called him “Verissimus,” “Most truthful.” He is considered one of Rome’s and history’s most thoughtful leaders.

Jose Marti is the father of freedom in Cuba.

Muhammed Ali is one of the greatest boxers in history and a loving father. Also, George Foreman who has a new book out about fathers where his greatest advice is “spend time” with your children–that’s your legacy.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a wonderful father who wrote many letters to his sons.

Albert Einstein was the father of modern science.

George Washington was the childless father of our country.

Nelson Mandela is the father of freedom in South Africa.

A.A. Milne based the character Christopher Robin in his Winnie-the-Pooh stories on his own son.

Jim Henson’s muppets and television show, Sesame Street, thrilled millions of children, including his own, who now carry on his tradition.

Martin Luther King, Jr. fathered American Civil Rights and believed that love, not violence, was the most powerful weapon.

Michael Jordan is a champion and a hero because he plays basketball with all his heart for his team, his family and his father.

Great Father Quotes:

 

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.” –Mark Twain

“It no longer bothers me that I may be constantly searching for father figures; by this time, I have found several and dearly enjoyed knowing them all.” — Alice Walker

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard.  Mother would come out and say, “You’re tearing up the grass.”  “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply.  “We’re raising boys.”  ~Harmon KillebrewHe didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.  ~Clarence Budington Kelland

A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.  ~Author Unknown

Father! – to God himself we cannot give a holier name.  ~William Wordsworth

Love and fear.  Everything the father of a family says must inspire one or the other.  ~Joseph Joubert

One father is more than a hundred Schoolmasters.  ~George Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs, 1640

Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father!  ~Lydia M. Child, Philothea: A Romance, 1836

Henry James once defined life as that predicament which precedes death, and certainly nobody owes you a debt of honor or gratitude for getting him into that predicament.  But a child does owe his father a debt, if Dad, having gotten him into this peck of trouble, takes off his coat and buckles down to the job of showing his son how best to crash through it.  ~Clarence Budington Kelland

A father is always making his baby into a little woman.  And when she is a woman he turns her back again.  ~Enid Bagnold

Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.  ~Ruth E. Renkel

A father carries pictures where his money used to be.  ~Author Unknown

The father who would taste the essence of his fatherhood must turn back from the plane of his experience, take with him the fruits of his journey and begin again beside his child, marching step by step over the same old road.  ~Angelo Patri

My father, when he went, made my childhood a gift of a half a century.  ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

It is much easier to become a father than to be one.  ~Kent Nerburn, Letters to My Son: Reflections on Becoming a Man, 1994

The words that a father speaks to his children in the privacy of home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering-galleries, they are clearly heard at the end and by posterity.  ~Jean Paul Richter

Any man can be a father.  It takes someone special to be a dad.  ~Author Unknown

The greatest gift I ever had
Came from God; I call him Dad!
~Author Unknown

I love my father as the stars – he’s a bright shining example and a happy twinkling in my heart.  ~Adabella Radici

Two little girls, on their way home from Sunday school, were solemnly discussing the lesson.  “Do you believe there is a devil?” asked one.  “No,” said the other promptly.  “It’s like Santa Claus:  it’s your father.”  ~Ladies’ Home Journal, quoted in 2,715 One-Line Quotations for Speakers, Writers & Raconteurs by Edward F. Murphy

Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever.  ~Author Unknown

Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later… that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.  ~Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities

Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes.  ~Gloria Naylor

 

“None of you can ever be proud enough of being the child of SUCH a Father who has not his equal in this world-so great, so good, so faultless. Try, all of you, to follow in his footsteps and don’t be discouraged, for to be really in everything like him none of you, I am sure, will ever be. Try, therefore, to be like him in some points, and you will have acquired a great deal.” — Victoria, Queen of England

“That is the thankless position of the father in the family-the provider for all, and the enemy of all.” — J. August Strindberg

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” — William Shakespeare

“One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.” — English Proverb

“To be a successful father . . . there’s one absolute rule: when you have a kid, don’t look at it for the first two years.” — Ernest Hemingway

“A man knows when he is growing old because he begins to look like his father.” — Gabriel García Márquez

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” — Sigmund Freud

“I watched a small man with thick calluses on both hands work fifteen and sixteen hours a day. I saw him once literally bleed from the bottoms of his feet, a man who came here uneducated, alone, unable to speak the language, who taught me all I needed to know about faith and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example.” — Mario Cuomo

“Be kind to thy father, for when thou wert young,
Who loved thee so fondly as he?
He caught the first accents that fell from thy tongue,
And joined in thy innocent glee.”
Margaret Courtney

“If the new American father feels bewildered and even defeated, let him take comfort from the fact that whatever he does in any fathering situation has a fifty percent chance of being right.” — Bill Cosby

“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father!” — Lydia M. Child

Great Father’s Day Links:

http://wilstar.com/holidays/fathers.htm

http://www.history.com/minisite.do?

Happy Daddy’s Day~

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon Kunati Publishers, www.kunati.com

www.motheirng-mother.com

Family Advisor on www.Caring.com

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Do you need to be needed?

Carl Jung called it, “The Wounded Healer.”

Caregivers, whether they come by it willingly or are drug into their caregivingroles, become accustomed to being needed. It’s comforting  and satisfying to know that you have a purpose.

But what do you mean when you say, “wounded healer?”  Is that a bad thing?

Wounded healer is an archetypal personality type that psychologist Carl Jung used to describe the relationship between analyst and patient–why a person might go into the psychology/counseling field.

No, it’s not a bad thing. I’m not sure there would be firemen, doctors, nurses, pastors, or teachers if there life experiences hadn’t given them a reason to step into these professions–to give back or make a difference.

I know good and well I wrote Mothering Mother out of a sense of need. I needed insight and direction. I needed to know how to step into this new role as a daughter who cares for her mother. I needed to examine aspects of the soul, my beliefs, and the ramifications on my relationships.

What would caregiving do to me?

I couldn’t find the answer, so I had to write my way through.

Jung had some theories as to why people choose “needing” professions:

  • The wounded healing is consciously aware of his own personal wounds and can be empathetic toward the person in need. 
  • The care receiver/patient also possesses an “inner healer” he is unaware of, but it’s there to help guide him and lead him to wholeness. 
  • The care giver–and care receiver (wounded healer and patient) are a good fit for each other. They need each other, in many ways.
  • They intersect at that point of need and each derives something from their relationship or experience. 

Jung also noted that you have to be careful and make sure that this type of agreement or relationship remains a healthy exchange for both people. He referred tho this as depth psychology and cautioned that the caregiver could potentially have his old wounds reopened, or get caught in a vicious cycle. He also cautioned against the ego taking over and the caregiver getting hooked on the power or the needing and falling into an an inflated ego.

For most caregivers, I fear that you’ll wind up creating more and more “needing” scenarios and begin to only feel like yourself when someone is in need or crisis mode.

It’s a big let down after your loved ones passes or goes into a care facility. You feel useless. You thought you longed for freedom but you feel lost. Your days were defined for you and now…what do you do with yourself? Who are you if not someone who cares for others?

You like that you’re good at something. You’re proud of the fact that you’re a good organizer, that you can spout off medical jargon, that you’re the one everyone comes to for a diagnosis. You actually own your own copy of Grey’s Anatomy, and I don’t mean the DVD collection of McDreamy and McSteamy.

Jung derives the term “wounded healer” from the ancient Greek legend of Asclepius, a physician who in built a sanctuary at Epidaurus in order to treat others. Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen also wrote a book with the same title. The Greek Myth of Chiron is also used to illustrate the archetype of the Wounded Healer so this whole deal about being needed and what it does to you isn’t new.

Realize that you might have codependency tendencies.

What is codependency?

NIMH, the National Institute of Mental Health defines it as: “Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.”

Oh, that’s not me. I’m not that bad. I’m not aiding an alcoholic or hiding an abuser.

Neither was I, but I did see aspects of control issues and “only I can make her happy” in my caregiving and even parenting years. A little of this stuff is toxic.

One book that changed millions of lives was Melodie Beattie’s Codependent No More. It brought this subject out of the counselor’s office and allowed lay people to analyze their behavior and seek help.

So how do you care give without taking it too far?

  • Be aware. Realize when you’ve tied your super-caregiver cape on, when you’re deriving more power or satisfaction out of your role than you probably should have–when you push others away or start to feel oddly territorial. Awareness is key.
  • Stop being so nice! Niceness is an illness. Do what’s right, not necessarily what’s nice.
  • Trust that what is right for you is right for those you love.
  • There is a time to extend yourself for others, but make sure there’s a cut off date.
  • If you are going to have to care giver for a long time, then make a plan so that your whole life and health and relationships aren’t derailed indefinitely.
  • Give up perfectionism. Allow others to help. Ask, demand help–and then accept it. If it’s difficult, then let one thing go at a time. Let one job be done by someone else for awhile–and go from there.
  • Ask a friend to be honest and let you know when you’re in “need to be needed mode.”
  • Laugh at yourself when you “do it again.” Don’t use this as another thing to feel guilty about. Break it down into manageable chunks.

It comes with the territory, but it’s not all bad news.

Recent studies on happiness says that people derive more joy out of being needed and having purpose than they do out of having money. Happiness seems to be based on treasured experiences, spirituality, a sense of family, and meaningful work. It’s also lowest during mid-life when you thought if you worked hard enough, made enough money, and raised decent kids, you’d be happy–suddenly you realize that while maybe you got some of that, much of life is beyond your control. You have to dig deeper, look beyond life’s trappings to find a deeper sense of joy.

So see? If you just don’t go crazy with this needing thing, it could actually be good for you. Caregiving certainly has aspects of experiences, purpose, family, and spirituality.

Balance, grasshopper. Balance.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Check out my book on Amazon: Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

www.mothering-mother.com

Syndicated blog at www.hopethrives.org

Family advisor at www.Caring.com

 

 

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Last night, the television show Boston Legal had one profound moment relating to Alzheimer’s.  

The premise is that one of their leading characters, Denny Crane (played by William Shatner) has early Alzheimer’s. He’s a brilliant attorney who has never lost a case–and he’s part owner in firm. The other law partners are hesitant for Denny to continue to litigate. Not only is he forgetful, he sometimes does or says bizarre things. Things Alzheimer’s patients might say or do.

Great scenario because I happen to know a great law professor from Yale who lives in my community who now has Alzheimer’s. You can be homeless and live under a bridge–and have Alzheimer’s, AIDS, or cancer–or you can be the president of the United States.

At one point, Alan, Denny’s best friend is having a conversation with Jerry, another lawyer in the firm, (who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome) about what a phenomenal job Denny did in court. Jerry blurts out, “Too bad Denny’s dying from Alzheimer’s.”

Alan is shocked. Insulted. He retorts:

“Denny’s not dying from Alzheimer’s. He’s living with it.”

There’s a great distinction here.

One of the drawbacks to early diagnosis is giving up too soon.

Early detection should mean that you receive proper medication, spend time with your loved ones, and make plans to live–not die.

In the case of Alzheimer’s, the average patient lives 8-10 years, and even longer depending on the age you contract this disease. Parkinson’s, ALS, MS, and other diseases can even offer a longer lifespan. Coincidentally, the average caregiver spend 4.3 years caregiving–leaving a bit of a discrepancy here.

The message is: don’t give up too soon.

Don’t hear a diagnosis and go home, draw the curtains, curl up in a fetal position and wither away.

As a family member or caregiver, it’s a blow to hear that your loved one has a terminal illness, but you still have to get up and face each day.

Michael J. Fox says that Parkinson’s is “the disease that keeps on taking.” He’s chosen to live with his disease. He’s chosen to do this for the millions who look to him and rely on him to raise money for research, for the difference he’s already made, but I’m sure he does this even more for his wife and his children.

A recent example is Ted Kennedy’s diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor. He had a seizure and went into the hospital just last weekend. Yet today, he and his wife, Vicki went sailing. He loves sailing and the Boston Globe said he “finds renewal on the water.”

Ted Kennedy is actually teaching his family and others how to treat him. The Chicago Tribune wrote, “Kennedy’s cancer is dire, not hopeless.”

It’s proven that prayers and good thoughts can impact people’s lives clear across the country–and we can create the atmosphere and attitude around us by how we handle our own bad news.

Maya Angelou says, “We teach people how to treat us.”

Yes, it’s natural to feel kicked in the gut.

It’s natural to take to the bed, cry, get angry, lash out or pull in. Don’t beat yourself up for going through this very natural stage.

But after that, it’s time to move on.

You (or your loved one) most likely won’t die tomorrow. Or the next day.

So you take your meds, maybe get physical or occupational therapy. Change things around in your home, hire a home health aide, buy a walker or scooter or whatever else you need. Life is different. I don’t doubt that. But life can still be good.

You can still find joy–and purpose.

Sometimes our purpose is nestled in our situation. Sometimes something–or someone arises in our midst and a window opens where a door shut.

Yet, there will come a time–hopefully in the distant future when the tide turns again.

You, or your loved one may die from this disease, I can’t promise you won’t. 

If not, from something else.

We have to eventually accept that as well. Another transition. Another acceptance. Another change.

But until then, live, live, live, live, live.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Check out her book, a day-to-day, intimate and honest look at caregiving…

Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

www.kunati.com/mothering

 

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If someone microchips their dog we think of them as acting loving and responsible.

Is that a good enough reason to put a microchip in a human? Isn’t that too “big brother-ish?”

We also put dogs to sleep, right? So maybe that’s not the best analogy.

As you can see, microchipping a human is controversial.

Why?

Some would argue it’s an invasion of privacy.

Others would argue it could be used by someone other than a family member or police.

Others say there are health concerns, such as cancer.

We insert pacemakers, steel rods and plates, silicone and collagen into our bodies, surely we can figure out how to make a tiny chip safe (enough) to give us some peace of mind.

What do you think?

You might feel different if you’ve ever lost your mom or dad. If they’ve ever snuck out of the house half dressed or not dressed at all. If they have Alzheimer’s and are not thinking clearly–insist they’re going to catch a taxi–my mother said that constantly even though I’m not sure she had ever ridden in a taxi in her life–and how in the world did she happen to remember that word but not her own daughter’s name?

Many, many, many night, I caught my mother trying to escape. We had several safety measure on the doors, and an alarm system that would beep if any doors or windows were opened, but still, I worried. She insisted she had to go preach, had to go to church, needed to go to the store and mostly….she needed to go home.

I was also worried because there was a river in our back yard and a 17 foot bluff/drop off. That didn’t seem to register to mother who was drawn more to the driveway and the street. We caught her in the bushes–a lot. And I was a vigilant caregiver. She was just slippery. I actually thanked God she had Parkinson’sto slow her down. Terrible thing to be thankful for, but as I see other moms with Alzheimer’s, and knowing my mother’s strength and fiestiness, I was grateful for any deterrent.

Why “chip?”

  • So they won’t get out and get hit by a car.
  • So they wont’ be kidnapped, raped, fall, wander in the woods.
  • So that so much time doesn’t lapse that they miss crucial medications.
  • So that if they take a car, bus, or train, you’ll know and won’t spend precious minutes, hours, or days in absolute panic and terror.

So yes, I would microchip. Give the benefits of the chip outweighs the risks.  I think. 

Let’s not confuse the issue here: most microchips simply hold information so that if/when the person is found, the information can be “read.” Most of these chips are not tracking devices. Technically, they’re called RFID–Radio Frequency Identification Device. 

One of the major controversies has to do with several studies that suggest that these implanted devices could cause subcutanous sarcomas — malignant tumors. This isn’t due to the radio frequency, it’s simply due to something foreign being under the skin (the tumors develop around the chip itself. Opponents argue that of the 10 million chipped pets, this isn’t a major issue, but it is something to think about.

So now, I’m back to wondering, would I?

The chip will only help “mom” out when someone (the police, etc) find her. If she’s stuck out in the woods tangled in briars, it won’t help?

I guess in my situation, I wouldn’t have been overly concerned about the cancer, considering her age and the greater risk of her getting lost–but I’d only do it it kept my mom safe and allowed us to find her quickly. I would want her found minutes, not days later.

One major microchip company that has recently been in the news is Verichip.

The chips about the size of a grain of rice and contains a 16-digit identification number which is scanned at a hospital. Once the number is placed in a database, it can provide crucial medical information.

This chip is now being tested in about 25 Alzheimer’s and elder/ill persons in Palm Beach,  and Del Ray Beach, Florida.

Here are some articles on microchips so you can decide for yourself:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=3536539

http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/elder_tracking/rfid-microchips-implanted-into-alzheimers-patients-294731.php

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1672865,00.html

Memory disorder units use various types of wander protection for their residents. They have to. This is different than microchipping, but eventually, microchipping will be incorporated into this system. If you ever have to place your loved one somewhere due to Alzheimer’s, then you’ll need to know how they safeguard their residents. A building full of Alzheimer’s patients could spell disaster without a decisive protection plan. That’s why these units cost so much. You can expect to pay 4-6,000 dollars a month. (gasp)

One such system is Roam Alert, and here’s a diagram of how it works in a facility. Each resident must wear a non-removable band. While this may cause skin irritation and some patients obssess about it, it’s a necessary component.

 

 

Benefits to the wanderer:

  • Freedom to interact with other residents
  • Freedom to use facility’s resources
  • Safety from wandering into dangerous areas

 

To cognitive residents:

  • Freedom to mingle with all residents
  • Avoid “prison lock-down” image

 

To the facility:

  • first line of defense
  • Insurance coverage
  • Quick response to wandering

I’m not endorsing anything here, I’m just using these companies as examples of what’s out there. Most family caregivers are too busy doing the actual care–driving to the docs, cleaning up, meds, and food prep to have the time or energy to do all this research.

I can’t help but believe that this is all a matter of time until we track and chip our loved one’s who cannot make good judgements. We will have to reconcile our sense of moral obligation in regard to privacy issues with our moral obligation to keep them safe.

Will there be abuses? I’m sure. Just like all technology, it’s amoral and up to the user to be ethical. We can already track people by their cell phones, and as the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients swell, this will not only become big business, it’ll become a national concern.

If not the chip, how do we keep mom and dad (or our husbands and wives, sisters and brothers) safe?

I’m just asking because I truly don’t know the answer.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

 

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Yes, I’m a Grey’s Anatomy fan. I know it has very little to do with real medicine, but any McDreamy fan will tell you, it’s not about the science. It’s the human drama, the relationships and the observations that connect us and make their story so universal. 

On the Feb. 1, 2007 airing of Grey’s AnatomyMeredith’s mother, Alice, who suffers from Alzheimer’s became lucid, and for an hour of television time, wreaked havoc on her daughter’s life.

This, I understand.

Everyone told Meredith what a gift it was, that she should be there by her mother’s side. But Meredith found her mother’s lucidity almost as painful as her “amnesia.” (I do realize I’m talking about a television show, but a good story is a good story, no matter the medium).

Like an alcoholic who becomes sober and and everyone around them realizes they still possess (if not more so)  a toxic personality, and that their disease, whether Alzheimer’s or alcohol had almost made them more bearable. The disese allowed them to blame something–to isolate themselves from facing the myriad of unfixable problems in their lives and relationships.

This is what I address in Mothering Mother–the unbelievable complex mother-daughter relationship complicated by a cruel, take-no-prisoner’s disease. As I “shopped” Mothering Mother, some publishers eluded that Alzheimer’s and caregiving had been done. I disagreed then, and even more, now. While the how-to books (get help, find services) have been done, what Alzheimer’s and other unrelenting diseases do to our lives and our relationships has barely been explored at all. Kunati understands this. Kunati believed in Mothering Mother--the honesty, the grittiness, and the humor so needed to survive.

Apparently, Hollywood believes in it too. They are willing to explore the mother-daughter relationship, pull apart and examine the angst, regret, denial, and the rage that accompanies life, death–and illness.

Meredith’s big lament was that her life had taken some hard hits, some ups and downs–in large part due to her mother’s illness. Loving, caring, worrying, and grappling over her mother’s situation and Alzheimer’s care had indeed take a toll on her own life, her career, and her relationships. It changed her. In many ways, for the better, but in other ways, it had scarred her landscape and forever altered her hope that life was in any way fair.

This, I understand all too well.

Thank you, Grey’s Anatomy for bringing to light an issue of such importance and prevalence in the lives of millions.

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