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Archive for the ‘dogs’ Category

My mom had Parkinson’s, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s–and she lived with my family (husband, daughters and me), and I was her full-time caregiver. I remember when I realized my mom was dying., literally dying–and that she would pass away in our home. I wanted to give her a home passing, but I felt sucked into death with her. The atmosphere of our home was somber. I was sleep deprived, zombified, and barreling toward depression. As crazy as it sounds, I told my husband I wanted a puppy.

Yes, I know dogs are work. I know puppies are even ten times more work. Why would a caregiver want something else to take care of? Because I needed to surround myself with new life. I needed a roly poly furry baby body to hold. I needed puppy’s breath (which to me smells like coffee, an aroma I adore) and tiny wimpers. I needed to surround myself with life as we faced the end of my mother’s days.

It wasn’t that I had read or considered studies about stress and the healing powers of pet therapy. It was pure instinct.

I’m often asked for hints to help caregivers and I know it might sound lame, but I deeply believe that the answer, at least part of it, lies in nature. We’re surrounded by this lush world of variety, color, texture, sights, smells, and sounds. The earth is our food–for our bodies and our souls.

My greatest comfort during my most stressful caregiving times was to go outside, stand by the river behind our house, wander in and out of the trees, pick wildflowers (commonly known as weeds), and feel the ground beneath me and the wind brush past me. Nothing brought me back to a place of calm than to simply step outside, take a few minutes, and breathe.

My husband and I went for a bike ride just minutes after I said I needed a puppy, that all of us needed a puppy. We’d only be gone ten minutes–a jaunt around the neighborhood…and there was a sign near the front of our community. “Free puppies.”

Not kidding. There it was. I took it as a sign (ha!) and we turned into the driveway.  It was a wide, flat yard with a doghouse, a trailer for a boat and a few spread out trees. And there was my puppy. A six-week old Alaskan Malamute/German shepherd mix curled in a C under the boat trailer. She was fat, sweet, and I knew she was to be mine.

We came home from that ten minute bike ride with Kismet. That’s her name. It’s means fate.

Our daughter’s eyes lit up, and even my mom, lost in muddled memories so long ago, connected. We were smitten. Kismet made us all laugh, play, and  cuddle. It was exactly what we needed. New life. Hope. Proof that life goes on.

Yes, it  took energy and time to train her, and we all pitched in. And yes, puppies do get up in the middle of night–but hey, I was already up with my mom anyway. She had sundowning and many of her nights resembled a late night brawl in a lively Irish pub. My mom yelled, ate handfuls out fo the frig or pantry, tried to escape, wrecked her room–it was wild. At least I could calm her, get her in bed, and hold my pudgy puppy for a few minutes and take in that musky, earthy puppy breath that only lasts for a few months.

Maybe this sounds like too much work, and don’t think you have to commit to a pet in order to feel joy and connection. 

Simple ways to surround yourself with new life:

  • Get flowers at the grocery store each week. Start collecting African violets–get some feed solution,  and set yourself up a window of violets in pinks, lavenders, deep purples and blues. If one dies, toss it!
  • Get some stick-on bird feeders that attach to your windows. They’re so cool and you can get them at a local bird or pet store, hardware or even WalMart. You can get hummingbird feeders or songbird feeders. It’s amazing to stand in your kitchen washing dishes and see a hummingbird hover right in front of you.
  • Buy bird feeder and put up a bird bath in your garden. Who cares if the squirrels eat it, too. Squirrels are fun to watch as well. I had a little guy with a bent tail visit me outside my home office window for years–every morning at 10am. I rushed to get in there to see the little guy and I enjoyed their antics–he apparently had a thing for a girl squirrel who was the equivalent to the prom queen because every male squirrel fawned over her. It’s better than watching the soaps!
  • Get binoculars and sit on the porch with your care buddy and bird watch together.
  • Stop by your local animal shelter–or even the pet store. On your way home from errands, stop and pet some kitties and puppies at the local shelter. They need love and will be better pets for their adoptive family if they get touched and talked to every day. You don’t have to “own” a pet to enjoy them.
  • Go to the zoo, local butterfly garden, or nature preserve. Caregiving can include field trips! Even if your loved one can’t walk far, many places have wheelchairs or can drive you in a golf cart. And who says you need to go through the whole place? Pick one animal you love, let your care buddy pick one animal they love, and only go there. Even thirty minutes is worth it–and with senior discounts, it’s a reasonable price and will change your whole day.

Kismet is now 7 years old–and what I had no way of knowing is that she would give us another gift. The last few months of my mom’s life was excruciating and poignant. Alzheimer’s took her ability to eat, to chew, to swallow, and her death was slow but I’m grateful to have this experience. On the year anniversary of my mom’s passing, Rupert, Kismet’s son was born.

Life trumps death.

He is the most adorable dog–sweet, funny, goofy and he came right on time. Just when we all needed another infusion of life.

I hope you find life–in the midst of caregiving–in the midst of sorrow and stress. Go with your gut and find something that quickens your heart. Life. It’s all around you.

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Life lessons are everywhere, and I was recently reminded of what it’s like to be a caregiver by my two dogs–Kismet and Rupert. Kizzy (short for Kismet) is an Alaskan Malamute and her son, Rupert who is part lab. (She had a tryst in the front yard before we could stop her). Miracle was, she only had one puppy–so we had to keep him. Miracle number two was that Rupert was born the very week of the anniversary of my mom’s passing.

Recently, I was sitting outside with the two of them, their leashes attached to my lawn chair (they love to romp the neighborhood if set loose), only Kizzy wanted to go inside. It was a cool, there was a breeze, she had a water fountain next to her to drink out of, I was there to pet her and we had a beautiful lake and birds galore to enjoy–but no–she would have none of that. She wanted inside.

Kizzy strained and strained. Whined. Wouldn’t sit down and relax and enjoy being petted or play ball–nothing. Rupert, on the other hand is less stubborn, more easy going by nature, and so he  was sprawled out beside me just as comfortable as he could be.

Both dogs were in the same place, under the same circumstances.

One was miserable. One was content. It was simply an attitude on both of their parts.

As I sat there, I thought of how some caregivers–or care receivers don’t want to be where life has brought them. Whether it’s pleasant or unpleasant isn’t even the point. They simply don’t want to be there. Period. They strain. Whine. Refuse to become a part of their environment and just enjoy the ride.

Others bloom where they’re planted. They adjust, adapt, make new friends, look around,  and figure hey, if they’re going to be there they might as well make the most of it.

Attitude.

I’m not saying that caregiving isn’t hard. Lord knows I know how hard it is. My mom had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,and in those last three years, I was Kizzy straining on the end of my very short leash.

I know now that I was scared. I was afraid my mother or that caregiving would consume me. I was afraid that if I was okay with it, that I’d never get to leave–or quit. I was afraid I’d never have a moment  to myself. I was afraid I was losing my indepence. Afraid. Afraid. Afraid.

Kismet, by the way, means fate.

I know that at times, I made it harder than it needed to be by not asking for and accepting more help, by realizing what a gift caregiving was (ironic gift), and by not seeing the beauty of where I was in my life. I missed certain opportunities by resisting so hard.  

If you’re miserable, edgy, antsy and irratated, ask yourself why?

At first, it’ll seem obvious–you’re exhausted, frustrated, sleep deprived, and perhaps dealing with a fussy loved one or facing death.

Ask yourself again–why are you miserable?

Keep asking until you get at the heart of the matter.

Ask yourself until you run out of excuses.

Why are you where you are?

Because it’s exactly where you need to be.

~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

www.Kunati.com, Publishers

 

 

 

 

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Caregiving isn’t exactly synonymous with a spicy love life–not until now. Maybe a passionate love life is just what the doctor ordered…

 

Dr. Christine Northrup, Oprah’s gynecologist on speed dial and author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, and the Wisdom of Menopause suggests that you spend 30 minutes three time a week in “self love.”

(Yes, that’s right. We’re talking about the M word)

Now, I can only speak for myself here, but unless “self love” includes eating a bag of Dove chocolates, painting my toenails and thumbing through a magazine, I’m going to have about 27 minutes to kill.

 

It’s not like I have to woo myself or assure myself that I’ll respect me in the morning…

 

As a caregiver, mother, daughter, sandwich generationer, pet “mom,” I have to tell you, thirty uninterrupted minutes is hard to come by.
(pah dum,dum)

 

I figure I can blog about this if Oprah can discuss it at 4:00 in the afternoon while I’m making chicken pot pie.

Besides, a healthy love life is important–and most of us would rather “play with others,” so let’s take the leap.

 

Why bother? You haven’t got time? You have no drive?

You’re beyond exhausted? You’ll deal with “that” later?

 

Here’s why it’s crucial: 

 

Being a passionate person spills over into everything in your life–how you dress, walk, what you choose to eat, how generous you are with your time and energies, how affectionate you are to all living creatures–not to mention the effects giving and receiving love has on your heart, immune system, psychological, emotional and spiritual foundation.

 

Here’s a few tips for revving up the ole’ love life for couples who are also caregivers, raise kids, and walk dogs. Believe me, I’ve been there–forty pounds heavier than I am today–sleep deprived, irritable, and pulled in a thousand directions–and living with a loved one with Alzheimer’s isn’t exactly conducive to candles and teddys.

 

Mom’s Home—Quick, Lock the Bedroom Door!Enjoy Your Relationship Even if Your Mom

Lives With You

· Put a lock on your bedroom door—and use it
· Sneak around—intimacy doesn’t just have to happen in the bedroom. Be playful! Flirt!
· Nix the old t-shirt and sweats and wear attractive PJs—they don’t have to be overly sexy to be attractive.
· Stay affectionate–even if you have to make yourself at first—call each other during the day just for a “Hi, and I love you,” hug and kiss hello and goodbye, cuddle on the couch, call each other affectionate names/ take baths or showers together (you do remember those?)
. Take short walks together—even 5 or 10 minutes of fresh air is invigorating and gives you a chance to talk
· Plan a surprise—sneak out to the yard after dark to cuddle on a quilt under the stars with cups of hot chocolate
. Laugh! Rent a comedy, pop some popcorn and sit ont the couch together–not in dueling recliners
· Don’t sweat it if you aren’t in a lovey-dove mood–caregiving is stressful and there are seasons in life. Remember though, a healthy love life is healing, satisfying and stress relieving—and better for you than a bottle of Scotch

  • If you’re a care partner, you have also face physical challenges. Talk, cuddle, find out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t think you have to “go all the way.” Find your own way.

Being a caregiver, care receiver, or care partner doesn’t mean you–or your loved one is dead. Unearthing those needs and desires means you’re still alive. Love and passion are vital.

Say “yes” to LIFE every chance you get.

And don’t forget–holding hands is still pretty darn great.

Happy V Day!

~Carol D. O’Dell
Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir,
available on Amazon
and in most bookstores

Kunati Publishing

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I’m a sandwich generation caregiver.

My 89-year old adoptive mother (who suffered with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s) moved in with us–my husband and I, two of our three daughters, plus a menagerie of dogs and cats.

My situation won’t be the same.

We have three daughters, and I had all of them while I was in my twenties.

That means when I’m 89, my daughters will be 67, 66, and 63. Yikes.

I hope they’ll be in good health and that we can all toodle around and take road trips, eat triple decker double-dipped ice-cream cones and enjoy our grandchildren–and my great grand children.

But there are no guarantees we’ll all be in good health.

And being in your late sixties and caregiving can’t be a picnic.

Just ask all the boomers who are starting down this road now.

Ironically, my mother-in-law has a mother-in-law. Neither are spring chickens. My mother-in-law is 79, and her mother-in-law is 95.

My mother-in-law has begun to slow down and is dealing with an arthritic knee. Her father-in-law died this year  and they’ve been driving three hours a day to help care for his mom (my mother-in-law’s mom-in-law). They’re worried about how things will go in the future, what care she’ll need, how they’ll manage.

They face the same questions I faced–what do we do about mom?

Do we place her in a care facility? Does she live with family?

But they (my father-in-law has his  2 siblings) also have different questions:

Are any of us capable of caring for her–long-term? 

My father-in-law just retired. He was planning on golfing, driving to see all the kids and grandkids, and instead, he’s caregiving.

Guess you just can’t get away from it. The best you can do is look a bit ahead and make a semi-plan.

And as we age, caregiving is even more difficult–physically in particular.

Families have new questions to ask. New plans to make. Grab the moments of fun now and not wait for some “golden” day for that dream trip or to think you’ll sail into your senior years in the glow of a sensual–just-two-love-birds sunset.

My plan is to really, really spoil my grandchildren–afterall, they’ll be young enough to care for me. That, and live big/love hard–now.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

 available on Amazon and in most bookstores

www.mothering-mother.com

www.kunati.com

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There was a time when I was caring for my mom (who lived with my family and me–she had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s) when I felt as if I were living in a tomb. It was so depressing to wake up every day to the same old routine–pills, dressing her, bathing her, listening to her negativity, which at times, I simply couldn’t lift her out of her dark moods. It all felt so mundane–and it seemed as if it would loom into my future for years to come.

It felt as if I had traded my life for my mother’s.

Sometimes caregiving feels like that.

I told my husband I needed a puppy.

Crazy, I know. Another “life” to take care of–walk, pick up poops, vet visits…work I didn’t need in my life.

But what I needed was exactly that–a new life.

We had a kitty and a Beagle, but she was old too. I didn’t want to lose my mother and my dog at the same time–I needed to counter death with life.

I guess I must have been really pitiful because my husband said okay, and honestly, I was a bit surprised. Our house overfloweth already.

Three kids, a dog, a cat, my mother…and a new puppy? Was I crazy? Was he crazy? Love makes us give into crazy, at times.

So, we went for a bike ride in the neighborhood. Even the sunshine and warmth of Florida did little to lift my thoughts. I was still in a funk. I think it was my first realization that death was going to take its own sweet time and I had a front row seat.

Then, we saw a sign. Literally. “Puppies–free.” Synchronicity.

We rode up the driveway, and there, in the back yard was a mama dog (Alaskan Malamute) and about six fat, wobbly, fuzzy puppies. It really did feel like a sign. (pah-dum-pum)

I chose a sweet, shy fur-ball who sat underneath the truck and then waddled her way out to get some lovin’. She looked at me with big brown eyes and floppy ears and a curly tail, and yeah, guess she knew I was her sucka.

We brought home our bundle and named her Kismet.

That means fate….

Kismet is curled underneath my desk as I write this. My feet are wedged in her tummy area–nice and warm. Her son is under there too. (That’s another post of yet another miracle in my life). My kitty’s still here and he’s in the room too, fatter than ever.

I call them my possy. I have more of an entourage than P’Diddy.

“We” spend our days writing, reading–yes, I read my work to them. We also spend a good portion of the day walking, playing and cuddling. Everything I own is covered in fur. I saw a great handtowel the other day that said, “If it wasn’t for pet fur, I’d get no fiber in my diet.”

My beagle’s gone, and so is my mom. Death gives way to life.

If you’re really down and it feels as if there’s an iron black cloud over your head–consider life. I know it’s work. I know it’s time–and money–and trouble. Believe me, I know the cost of pets. I’ve cleaned up the runs and throw up and infected ears, and all expenses that goes with caring for a biological life form–be it human or dog. 

But it’s still worth it. Why?  

I smile and laugh every day.

I get to pet soft furry ears.

They wag their tales when I open the door.

They seem to like me so much that even if I go into another room–they want to be there–with me.

They’re warm–and cuddly.

They actually seem to smile when they see me.

They make me get up when I might just want to roll over.

They make me walk–even when it’s cold.

They give me a sense of being safe.

They keep me on a healthy routine. They also remind me that I have to stand up to them–they need me to be the Alpha Mama–to be in charge. That makes them feel safe, and it makes me remember my strength.

They make me give–which is good for everyone.

They give me hope.

Life goes on.

(There’s more about my pets in my book, Mothering Mother. They truly were one of the keys to keeping me headed in the right direction in the years I cared for my mom).

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

Available on Amazon and in most bookstores

www.mothering-mother.com.

Kunati Publishing

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