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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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Rattles

Mother has what they call the death rattle.

Every time she takes a breath there’s a rattle. Technically it’s congestive heart failure—the fluid around her heart is building up and her body can’t process it, so it’s filling up in her lungs.

I remember when Mother said she had a little kitten in her chest when she’d get bronchitis. She always was funny.

I keep going back to this book, How We Die, by Dr. Sherwin Nuland. It’s been my Bible lately. He’s guided me these past few months with his insight and depth into not only the process of death but its ramifications for the living as well. There’s so little out there on how to do this. I need to know the physical side in order to grapple with the emotional and physical aspects of how to be with a loved one as she leaves this earth.

When I go to hold Mother’s hand or lift it, it’s lifeless. It may be warm, but it’s deflated the way Daddy’s was after he died. Dehydration has caused her skin to pucker and gather over blue and swollen veins. I wipe each hand with a warm cloth. I wipe her neck and chest, her cheeks and eyes, ears and hair.

It must feel good to her. It feels good to me.

No one’s here and that’s the way I like it, to be able to wander in and out as I need to, to pray, cry, talk, sing, and leave the room when I can’t take it any more. I turn on the TV and hope for something funny, anything funny. I ramble down to the river and write, but I’m too anxious to sit and go back in. I’m going to take a bath. I haven’t made any calls today. 

Everyone’s just going to have to wait. I’ve done quite a bit.

I just want to be quiet and let it happen, not make it happen.

(Excerpt from Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir) 

This is what it’s like at the end. You don’t fight when the death rattles come. It sounds like an old-fashioned, out-of-date term, but it fits.

When I first heard of the death rattles, it was probably from some scary movie and it conjured up all kinds of terrible things. It wasn’t easy, sitting there, not “doing” anything. It was a time of being. Not doing.

In some ways, it’s a good sign. It’s a sign to let go. It’s a sign to stop fighting. To sit quiet, to kiss, ask forgiveness, and say good-bye. 

It’s nothing to be afraid of. When it comes, it comes. When it’s here, you’ll know what to do.

 I cleaned out mother’s room–made it less cluttered. Called her relatives and told them it would be soon. I began to make plans for her memorial. Gather pictures to make into a collage and presentation. I was over fighting death. It was time to allow the transition.

The death rattle also refers to a gurgling sound that comes with the last breaths, or even the sounds after death that the body produces–it’s the fluids that have built up in the lungs, throat and body cavities. It’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s just biology. We as a modern society know so little about death and dying and grieving that we’ve made things scarier than they need to be. We have so little experience being human–and sharing in this most sacred event.

Nothing and no one can prepare you for this day. You think you’ll panic or run, but you won’t. You’ll be too tired and too numb to get too worked up. You’ll also know it’s time and you’ll want to be there. If you have to run, that’s okay. No one should judge you. This isn’t a bravery contest.

The machines are usually turned off at this point, food and meds have stopped and those who need to say good-bye have come and gone–or stayed. All the fuss is over.

 It’s not about giving up as much as it’s a time of giving in.

 You’ll be grateful that your loved one’s suffering is almost over.

You’ll be grateful that as heart wrenching as it is, that you’re there–witnessing this most holy event. 

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available in hardback or on Kindle

www.caroldodell.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

 

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There’s a new kind of caregiver out there.

She (or he) is a savvy caregiver, isn’t a martyr, and doesn’t look defeated (all the time).

She (I use the feminine pronoun to apply to everyone) has her act together (in some respects) and isn’t going to let her life and her plans be completely derailed–and yet she loves her family, her elders, her children, and embraces the fact that she’s an integral part of their life.

How does she do it all?

It’s not about being perfect.

In part, it’s about being prepared, looking at the big picture, and then breaking down the day-to-day components into manageable bites.

It’s also about choosing to care-give.

This isn’t a passive thing–and yes, it may have come to you sideways, unexpected or by default, but you didn’t have to say yes. Everyday people place their family members in care facilities, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes by refusing to give them any level of care.

Realize that you are choosing to care-give. That sense of choice also provides you with purpose and direction. It means you’re not a victim.

Preparedness (Boy Scouts, move over) and How to Care-give Not to Kill Yourself

  • She’s (the healthy caregiver) gathered the necessary info and has it at her fingertips–Living Wills (The Five Wishes is the one I highly suggest) DNR orders, if necessary, insurance info and numbers, notes made about recent doctor appts. or hospitalizations, and medicine info.
  • She uses her calendar and to-do lists efficiently, but she’s not a robot. Some days you chuck it all and love on the person who needs it the most (that may be yourself).
  • She has her down days, her pajama days, and she knows that balance isn’t about doing a little every day–sometimes there are seasons–seasons of quiet, seasons of chaos, and seasons of grief.
  • She’s learned not to let every little thing rial her. She’s experienced enough in life to know what’s worth freaking out about (which is very little) and what isn’t (which is most everything else).
  • She listens, repeats back what is said (to a loved one or to a doctor) so that she understands clearly. She takes notes if it’s important or could be necessary later.
  • She can shut it all off and be a woman, get a mani-pedi, be silly and play Prince in the car and sing to the top of her lungs. She doesn’t get sucked into being an elder or being a teen just because she happens to spend a lot of time with either (or both).
  • She prioritizes. Sometimes a home-cooked meal is soothing and rattles her nerves. Sometimes it’s pizza night. She laid down the “shoulda’s, woulda’s, and coulda’s.”
  • She has a great support team–friends to call and gripe to, a gynecologist or family doctor who’s looking out for her, knows the stress she’s under and can monitor her well-being. She relies on her faith, her heart, her circle of support and doesn’t try to go it alone. She considers herself a part of a team and shows a heart of gratitude.
  • She asks for and accepts help. She isn’t interested in being super woman or perfectionist woman. She’s willing to get help and seeks out competent care.
  • She knows she’s vulnerable to stress, so she’s devised a meditation time and exercise time she can manage–it may be only a few minutes a day, but it keeps her sane.  She’s found her own spirituality.
  • She continues to improve her own life–she takes an on line class, a yoga class, is learning how to knit–something that keeps her mind active and learning.
  • She utilizes the internet, finds help, information, and forums that help support her and her caregiving experience.
  • She can see past tomorrow–she knows that caregiving isn’t forever–and she has her own personal plan to move on with her life.
  • She gives herself permission to “lose it” every once in a while–sometimes things just go in the crapper and that isn’t a reflection of her, it’s just life. If she bites someone’s head off, forgets an appointment, bounces a check, she admits her faux pas and lets it go.
  • She values her marriage/intimate relationship and allows sex and intimacy to heal her. Even when she’s exhausted, she finds and asks for ways to connect.
  • She enjoys caregiving–even with all its craziness, caring for a loved one is a privilege. She finds ways to incorporate everyday pleasures to share with her care partner–bird watching from a bedroom window, stopping for ice cream on the way back from the doctor.
  • She takes the time to hold hands.
  • She’s strong enough to make the touch choices, to not be popular, to figure out how to get a doctor, care staff to understand where she’s coming from–and she’s brave enough to know that when death comes, she may be asked to make critical end-of-life decisions, decisions others may disagree with.
  • She’s not afraid of Alzheimer’s or Parkinsons and doesn’t give up in the cruel face of whatever disease her loved ones face. If they forget who she is, she’ll remember for them. If they become uncontrollable, she gets help and doesn’t take it personal.
  • She knows that she may not always be able to do this–and she’s explored other options. She isn’t going to wreck her health or her marriage. She’s planning for those changes now.
  • She knows that caregiving will take her to the bitter edge, and she’s got to figure out how regain the parts of her that get lost in the mix. She knows how hard this is, or will become, but there’s a thread that’s pulling her along, a thread will lead her out and will allow her to continue her journey once caregiving is over.

The new kind of caregiver isn’t a super-mom or super-daughter (or super-son).

They’re real people loving their families. It’s realistic. It’s not martyristic.

The world may not understand the “sacrifices” as some might call them that caregivers (plain ole’ family) makes, but those who have been there understand the love and loyalty that comes in tow.

You don’t do all these things at once, so don’t try to measure up.

You don’t do them to impress anybody.

This is survival. This is how to care-give and not kill yourself in the process.

~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

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If you’ve ever had a bladder infection (the common name for UTIs), then you know how very painful they can be.

If you haven’t, let me describe one for you:

Many times, you don’t realize right off what’s wrong.

You’re edgier than normal. You feel “different down there,” but you’re not sure. Then, you get the frequent urinating thing. Every two minutes.

It begins to be painful, sometimes there’s nothing to urinate but you feel ike you have to. I mean you have to like someone’s holding your foot and you’ve got to jump off a cliff.

You start drinking water like crazy thinking you can dilute it. You hear cranberry juice or pills help, so you run out and buy some and chug down a quart.

No matter what else you think you have to accomplish, you can’t.

You can’t think straight. There are no other thoughts but those of pain. Your lower abdomen aches. You wet your pants, you can’t help it, and you cry as you’re doing it.

You’re in absolute agony, and if you had a gun and could drive yourself to the pharmacy, you would hold it up—for meds. For relief. I’m not kidding.

Even after you get the meds, it takes hours, if not days. You can run a fever. You snap at everybody, if you can even answer them. You find yourself running your fingers through your hair over and over. You avoid everyone.

This is a bladder infection.

The medical world acts like it isn’t a big deal, but I swear, if you had to live this way, and live with this undiagnosed, you might kill someone. They act like the second you get antibiotics it instantaneously goes away. But the overuse of antibiotics carry a consequence, according to the AMA.

Doctors and nurses pooh-pooh you if you’re young.

They think you’re amorous, having too much sex. Wink, wink. While that can be one cause, it’s not the only cause.

Women suffer greatly from UTIs (more than men, in general) in part due to their anatomy—a short urethra. Yeah, blame us.

But I know there are other reasons. Nerves, for one. I always get a bladder infection when something big is about to happen—buying a house, passing a big test. And yes, I’m amorous (and monogamous). That’s a good thing.

UTIs are also serious and can be life threatening if left untreated.

But what would a UTI be like if you couldn’t communicate?

If you had ALS or Alzheimer’s, or some other impairment that kept you from realizing exactly what was going on? What if you didn’t want to tell your daughter, or your nurse that you wet yourself again and again? Would you be shamed? Who wants to change multiple sheets or panties?

Urinary tract infections in the elderly are very, very common.

Particularly in women, and even more so for those who live in a care facility.

And they often go untreated.

Why?

Too many to care for, perhaps. The elder’s inability to describe what’s happening.

UTIs in the elderly or in people with Alzheimer’s can affect not only their health, but can also lead to significant behavioral changes. In fact, if your loved one’s behavior has changed recently, even if they’re male, you should consider the possibility that they could have a UTI.

Just as with me, agitation or nervousness is a big indicator.

The person is concentrating to deal with the pain—there’s nothing left for niceties. Check to see if they’re running a low grade fever, if they’ve soiled their underwear, if they’re more disoriented than usual.  

Elders with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, or other neurological disorders may not remember to urinate—even their bodies and muscles begin to forget, to give off the proper signals, and this leads to a tract infection.

 

Those who have diabetes are also having a higher risk of a UTI because of changes in the immune system. Any disorder that suppresses the immune system raises the risk of a urinary infection.

 

If your male elder has an enlarged prostrate, that can impede urinary flow and cause an infection. So can a kidney stone.

 

People who are catheterized or have tubes placed into the bladder are more prone to urinary tract infection. (This is the highest group of all)

 

Caregivers, You Need to Know the Most Common Urinary Tract Infection Indications:

·       Frequent urination along with the feeling of having to urinate even though there may be very little urine to pass.

·       Nocturia: Need to urinate during the night.

·       Urethritis: Discomfort or pain at the urethral meatus or a burning sensation throughout the urethra with urination (dysuria).

·       Pain in the midline suprapubic region also known as flank pain and is also associated with kidney infections.

·       Pyuria: Pus in the urine or discharge from the urethra.

·       Hematuria: Blood in urine.

·       Pyrexia: Mild fever

·       Cloudy and foul-smelling urine

·       Increased confusion and associated falls are common for elderly patients with UTI.

·       Some urinary tract infections are asymptomatic and difficult to detect.

·       Protein found in the urine.

·        

Kidney Infection Indications:

*                All of the above symptoms plus:  

·       Emesis: Vomiting.

·        Back, side (flank) or groin pain.

·       Abdominal pain or pressure.

·       Shaking chills and high spiking fever.

·       Night sweats.

·       Extreme fatigue.

 

Testing for UTIs is usually a mid-flow urine test, and trust me, that can difficult in and of itself when dealing with an elder loved one.

The treatment for UTIs is antibiotics, but antibiotics have become overused and may not always be effective. Be sure to retest. Elderly individuals, both men and women, are more likely to harbor bacteria in their genitourinary system at any time, which means it just comes with old(er) age.

 

Care facilities are a medical necessity in many families lives for many reasons, but there is a higher incidence in care homes for UTIs. If you can care for your loved one at home for as long as possible and utilize the many community resources available to you—and keep your elder on a consistent routine, your elder is better off.

 

 

But I know how hard this is. I cared for my mother at home for the last three years of her life, and I do know there comes a time when you can’t do any more than you’ve already done.

 

By at least being aware of UTIs and how they present themselves, you can keep your loved one from suffering from this very painful and frustrating ailment.

 

Don’t let your elder suffer in silence.

 

~Carol D. O’Dell is the 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 Publisher

 

 

Helpful Websites:

Alzheimer’s TreatmentsLatest news on drugs and treatment- from the Alzheimer’s Association.www.alz.org/treat

Alzheimer’s StagesUnderstand The Stages Of Alzheimers See Our Alzheimer’s Stages Site.Understanding-AlzheimersDisease.com

Alzheimers Nutrition TipsStrategies for Managing Mealtime Family Caregiving Advice & CDswww.LightBridgeHealthcare.com

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This June, my mother will celebrate her sixth anniversary “on the other side.”

I can hardly believe it’s been that long. I spent the first year in grief and rebuilding my life.

That’s normal, and you can’t rush it or fix it. It was more like two years, and that’s also “normal.”

That’s how long it takes to assimilate a death, process your emotions, and begin to incorporate your loved one into your being. Of course, averages are just numbers and each person’s process if different, but you really shouldn’t expect much from yourself during those first two years–at least that long. 

For me, that time was a mix of guilt, regret, longing, lostness, mania, and vacillating between lethargy and intensity. To the outside world, I might not have looked like I skipped a beat, but what choice did I have?

I was a sand-gener–I had daughters to finish raising, to get into college. I returned to college myself, lost 30 pounds, stayed married, wrote my book, wrote short stories, essays and articles–I looked busy. I was busy. But there was a whole lot going on under the surface.

But only in retrospect can we see the bigger picture.

Now, I can look back and see where I’ve been and what I’ve learned.

It’s a laundry list and I can’t say when I learned what.

There’s no order, only this is what I know–about caregiving, life, death, mothers, daughters, families, faith, and surviving.

What I Learned:

  • I’m glad I didn’t know what was ahead–if I did, I would have never gone on this journey. 
  • Believe that caregiving has come into your life to heal you, show you things about yourself, give you a chance to work on old issues–and that in the end, you’ll emerge a better person.  
  • To accept myself and my mother and our relationship “as is.” It’s okay not to try and fix things.
  • Forgiveness are like small pebbles you pick up along the way–nothing big and monumental–just a gathering of what I choose to keep–and what I leave behind.
  • Doctors and nurses aren’t gods and I don’t have to do everything they say. I can speak up, ask for somehting different. I know my loved one much better than they do–and I have to make–and live with my decisions.
  • For the most part, going into the hospital in those last few years only made things worse. It wore me out, and there is a time to just accept that your loved one’s health is falling apart and let it.
  • Live with the chaos, the dishes, the laundry–sleep whenever I can–there are times to just get by.
  • Stop worrying about what my relatives or our neighbors think. Unless you’ve been a caregiver, youy can’t fathom what this is like.
  • To ask for more and more and more help. I tried to do too much alone and on my own.
  • Trust that I will bounce back from caregiving. Don’t drive my health to the absolute bitter edge (just almost), but then reclaim my health, my life, and my sanity and move on.
  • Guilt and resentment take up too much time and energy–stop giving my power away by mulling on things I can’t change.
  • You might not want to piss off all your doctors and nurses because you might eventually need them–so be savvy about how you deal with them.
  • If you’re forced choosing between your health, your marriage, your sanity, your children–and your elder–then choose your life to put first. Not theirs. As cold as that sounds, life moves forward. This doesn’t mean you ditch them on the side of the road, but in your mind and heart, put your life first.
  • Don’t just tolerate things you can’t stand. Stop being passive agressive and complaining about it later. Do something about it. Pitch a fit. Tell off your sibling. Fire a home health aide. Scream for help. Be a bitch. It probably isn’t the first time–nor will it be your last. You get what you tolerate, so stop tolerating so much. (I’m talking to myself, here)
  • No matter how religious a person may have been in their life, it doesn’t mean they aren’t fearful of death. Fear, or lack of, has more to do with a person’s psychological make up, and a way they’ve practiced seeing and responding to life–and this will determine how they handle death.
  • Realize that those last few years, months, or weeks may be more about semantics–that their spirit has already left this earth and the shell, their body, just hasn’t left yet. Be okay with taking care of that shell–but don’t make it hard, and don’t over think.
  • Understand that anger is sometimes a useful emotion–it’s a way we protect ourselves, but there’s also a time to lay anger down.
  • Laugh whenver you can–at whatever you can. Be irreverent, be snarky, other than downright cruelty, laughter is so good for you that you need to see the humor and crazyness of your situation.
  • For the most part, go with your gut. Do what feels most natural, particularly after your loved one passes and you’re grieving. Sleep, eat, cry, run a marathon, join thepeace corp–whatever is driving you, let it drive you–it’s part of your journey, and other than truly dangerous behavoir, you can’t screw up, so go for it.
  • You feel really lost after losing your mother. You wonder who you are without them to help define you. Later, you might even feel free-er, less confined.
  • Missing someone hurts, but sometimes it’s good to hurt.
  • It may take a few years, but eventually, let go of the exhaustion, resentment, guilt, and begin to enjoy your new relationship with your loved one. People “on the other side” still teach us, guide us, speak to us–and realize that they are now a part of who you are. You carry them with you.
  • Understand that you may have to care give again–a spouse, another parent, a sibling, who knows? Begin to think–how would you do it different?

Here I am, almost to June. Six years ago I was at my mother’s bedside.

It was grueling, and the weeks were dribbling by.

It rained every day, and my mother was in a coma. It felt like she’d never die. That may sound cruel, but I was beyond all human niceties. It also felt like I’d never live. Practically speaking, I knew I couldn’t fix Alzheimer’s. I knew her living would keep her in a place of perpetual lostness, and I didn’t want that for either of us.

I hated everybody–hospice, me, my mother–and then I let go and just allowed.

The barometric pressure felt off the chart. ‘

Death had to come, but when? Mother had quit eating and drinking, and I let her. That was an excruciating decision, but I chose to let her leave this world. I chose not to intebate her, to do a feeding tube. I knew that this decision would be one I would have to bear alone. I would have to sit there, every minute and see the ramifications of my choice. I did, and as hard as it was, as many times as I wanted to panic, jump up, run out, beg for intervention, I didn’t. I stayed firm.

My world grew calm, my movements quiet. We waited.

And here I am–six years forward. Blogging. I had no idea I would wind up blogging every day. I doubt I even knew what a blog was at the time.

My book, Mothering Mother has been out a year. I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of caregivers. I’ve been featured on CNN and other tv and radio programs. I’ve written a novel about Vincent Van Gogh, and finished my prequel, Said Child. I graduated from Jacksonville University and danced at my daughter’s wedding, and buried our beagle. Life is full. It swells and ebbs.

What I’ve learned is to accept each day, the power of now. Each season. To be alive with what is given to me at the time. To realize I’m not so much in control as I am in the flow. I am a part of what is happening, not orchestrating it.

Caregiving gave my life a deeper meaning. It revealed things about me, how I think, how I handle life–things I’m proud of and things I’d like to address.

One thing for sure, caregiving changes you in ways you can’t imagine.  

~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

Publisher: www.kunati.com

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Different personalities handle life, death, and caregiving differently.

We all have gifts to offer the world and to offer as a caregiver. 

Stop trying to be something you’re not.

Stop trying to be your mother.

There are things you’re good at things you aren’t.

Accept this and let go of the guilt. 

By examining your basic personality traits, you can capitalize on your strengths and accept what you can–and can’t do.

There are several types of personality tests such as the Briggs-Meyers and Kiersey Temprement scale. 

Let’s start with a simple one first. It’s actually based on the four humors of Hippocrates and is called Personality Plus by author and speaker Florence Littauer.

Here’s an easy breakdown of the Four Basic Personality Types:

Choleric: This is the commander-type. Cholerics are dominant, strong, decisive, stubborn and even arrogant.

Melancholy: This is the mental-type. Their typical behaviour involves thinking, assessing, making lists, evaluating the positives and negatives, and general analysis of facts. ‘

Sanguine: This is the social-type. They enjoy fun, socialising, chatting, telling stories – and are fond of promising the world, because that’s the friendly thing to do.

Phlegmatic: This is the flat-type. They are easy going, laid back, nonchalant, unexcitable and relaxed. Desiring a peaceful environment above all else.

Positives and Negatives

None of these types is specifically described as positive or negative – each having upsides and downsides. The book makes it clear that the characteristics are for observing and identifying, rather than judging.

  • A Choleric is focused on getting things done, but can run rough-shod over others. They are decisive and stubborn, but are also natural leaders and like check lists and getting things done. They can also be charismatic and dynamic and tend to “take the air out of the room.”
  • A Melancholy is a planner, making sure things happen, although sometimes they can paralyze themselves with over-analysis. Lists and “doing things the right way” are characteristics of this personality type. While quiet, they are also strong and stay on task. They are the ponderers and can also be great artists and enjoy being alone. They tend to make their own happiness and are easy to get along with.
  • A Sanguine gets on well with people and can get others excited about issues, but cannot always be relied upon to get things done. They love interacting with others and play the role of the entertainer in group interactions. They have a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver. They are also inspiring and charasmatic and light up a room.
  • A Phlegmatic is neutral – they tend not to actively upset people, but their indifference may frustrate people. They try not to make decisions, and generally go for the status quo. Phlegmatics are peace lovers and bring a sense of calmness to situations. They avoid stress whenever possible and are great at coping skills and solving problems–if you seek them out because they’re not likely to assert themselves. They don’t like being the center of attention.

Do you see yourself anywhere?

I do. I’m a mix of sanguine and choleric and with a dash of melancholy.

I’m one step away from being a party-hardy, but I do have my contemplative side.

I also see myself, sad to say, not delivering on all of my promises. Mostly because I promise too much.

I can entertain a room and love telling stories, planning an event, and rallying a cause.

By  knowing this about myself, I’m able to recognize when I am, or I’m not at my best.

I was also able to assess my mother’s personality–not hard to do–choleric and then some.

I could see why we butted heads. Two extroverts, entertainers, both of us know-it-alls–under one roof. No wonder we had a few fireworks (cannons) go off. No wonder we needed to get out and be with other people–only caregiving and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s isn’t exactly a great mix for mingling in a crowd.

Still, I could watch my mother’s face light up whenever we had company.

I can still see her long, elegant hands (she always had great nails) expressing a point.

Even her natural speaking voice had a certain cadence to it. You listened when she talked.

She liked herself, and that makes others like you as well. Some people found this annoying, but perhaps they felt threatened by such a formidable woman. While I’m at it, I can’t fail to mention that she was BOSSY, irritating, and demanding! She wouldn’t mind me saying these things because she wouldn’t consider them a detriment. That’s how things get done, she’d say.

In the end, I have to believe that I was able to offer my mother the homecoming she desired. She died at home, with me by her side and with hospice to guide us.  I fought exhaustion and doubt because I have the personality to go and go–if I believe in something. We stuck together–through fights, medical setbacks, and long, dark nights.

Her memorial service had a presentation of her dynamic life–as a minister, mother, wife, radio and television evangelist, and I was able to give her this because I understood her and how she would want to be remembered. I used my gift to tell stories to remember her. That’s why I wrote Mothering Mother, to capture who she was, who we were.

Learning about your personality and others can help when things get rough.

When I get out of my element, I say that “my circuit breakers are popping.”

That’s when I’ve created or become a part of a too stressful situation and I begin to lose it.

I forget things, drop the ball, the house gets totally chaotic–I”m even later than usual, and I get fussy.

I mean really fussy. I’m usually a laid back, happy go lucky gal, and when I get mean–something’s off.

I know this about me, and it really helped in dealing with caregiving stress.

I knew what to watch out for. I knew what I could give my mother and my family–and what I couldn’t.

You can’t go changing yourself, so don’t try. Not that we shouldn’t improve, but don’t plan to go out and get a lobotamy.

You pretty much have to go with the Popeye motto, “I am what I am.”

So accept your basic personality and learn to make the most of it.

For us Sanguine’s and Cholerics–hey, we can throw a great party and get people involved in a cause. We can mmake people smile and laugh, make a room look gorgeous, a meal, sumptous, and call up an army in time of need. Those are good things. But don’t ask me to scrub the little square bathroom tiles cause it’s not happenin’~

What we can’t do for you is pay attention to every detail, plan for every pitfall, or deliver on our gazillion, hair-brained ideas. We do care when we let people down, at least I do.

What this means is that we need each other.

I need those quiet, consistent friends to help me stay on course.

I need a phlegmatic to calm me down when I get too worked up.

I need a melancholy daughter to ask me how I’m doing, what I need–and then take the time to hear me out. I need my choleric daughter to organize my office while I listen to her fume about the injustices of the world.

I need my phlegmatic husband to pay the bills, put money in our 401K and run my beautiful website he designed. Does he drive me crazy with his skepticism and practicalities? Sure does. But my kite-flying high ideas drive him bonkers too. Still, we make a good team.

Isn’t it wonderful how we can look around us and see how we all fit together?

Caregiving is tough, but no matter which personality type you have, you bring gifts to the table, to your relationship. It is no mistake that you are you mother’s daughter, your husband’s spouse, that your sister happens to be so opposite of you sometimes you want to scream–and then other times she balances you out, and smooths over situations in a way you couldn’t have.

By understanding better who you are, where your weak spots are, what you’re good at–you can offer your loved one something unique and just what they need.

Accept your personality and your relationships as they are meant to be.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Family Adviser, Caring.com

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

www.kunati.com

www.Caring.com

www.opentohope.com

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One of the practices hospice recommends is to ask your loved one’s fforgiveness–and to offer yours.

I’ve been thinking about this all day. The importance, or power of forgiveness and how it might keep us here on earth, lingering. Everything hospice does is to make passing easy, comfortable, and to give a sense of closure to everyone.

And here’s this forgiveness“issue” needing to be addressed, perhaps for the first time in many family member’s lives–and for others, it’s a reassurance, a final healing of many healings we all must go through in life.

Isn’t it amazing that a lack of forgiveness can hold you to this world when your spirit is ready to leave?

It doesn’t even matter if your loved one is in a coma, or if they have cancer and are on morphine, or if they have Alzheimer’s or some other neurological disorder that may make you feel that they are beyond understanding. They’re not. You’re not. I believe that forgiveness, and the ability to give and receive forgiveness is at a cellular level. What we think, dwell on, harbor, hold on to, refuse to let go of–it has to go somewhere. It enters our muscles, or bones, or organs, and permeates all that we are.

I’m not implying that those who linger on and on, for whatever reason have “unforgiveness.” I’m not saying that at all.

Sometimes the hurts we harbor are from blantant acts of cruelty while others bubbled from years of silent sorrows. Either are weights to our souls.

What’s it mean to forgive–and be forgiven?

I was brought up in a Christian based household, and unfortuately, some interpretations of the Bible have us tangled in sin and shame. We create a trap we can’t seem to find our way out of. Not all faiths do this, not all families or churches do this, but I know that it took me some time to realize God doesn’t need to do the forgiving, we do. 

God’s forgiveness of humanity, of each individual’s life is limitless, and easy. He’s not into grudges, resentments, and guilt. We are. Unfortunately. We’re the ones that have to “work at” forgiveness.

“Forgiveness means being able to finally say, ‘thank you for giving me the insights I’ve gained from this experience.'”

I heard this from one of the founders of the book, The Secret, and no matter how you feel about that subject, this quote turned things upside down for me–in a good way.

That hit me in my gut. I thought of rape victims, family members of murder victims, family members of people who have overdosed or committed suicide, of all the lives taken by war and disease…and yet all of us, all of us must eventually come to our own end, to a place of giving and receiving forgiveness.

No matter what has been done to us.

No matter what we have done.

We will all be there, in our final days and minutes of passing–and forgiveness stands guard of the gate.

***

I can only speak of my own life here. My own hurts. I’ve had some. And it took a long, long time to come to this place. I’m not necessarily grateful for the experience, but I am grateful for what I’ve learned. My deepest hurts and shames, both of my own doing and that done to me, what I’ve learned has been a greater tenderness for life, a few stones of wisdom to carry in my pocket, and the ability (occasionally) to discern what’s really important.

This is what I’ve learned. What I’ve gleaned from a few very dark nights.

***

I can’t begin to postulate as to how to do this, or when, and I’m not going to lecture anyone here. If you’re reading this post, maybe it’s for a reason. You’ll know when you need to look at something again. You’ll know–life has a way of revealing what it is we’re supposed to deal with, examine.

It’s okay if it isn’t right now. If the wound is fresh, then most likely, no. You’ll have time. This isn’t something to fix or check off a list. Forgiveness is rarely instantaneous, and it can’t be forced.

Again, for me, I get lots of “passes at” forgiveness. I’m usually a last minute packer, but this is one area, I hope not to leave to last minute.

It’s like circling a mountain. Each time I find myself at the same location, looking at the same old issue, but sometimes, my elevation is a bit higher. I do a little heart work, see it from a different perspective, and then I keep walking–knowing that I’ll circle the mountain again, and I’ll have a new opportunity. Until then, I need to just live.

***

If you or your loved one is at this last juncture, and this question is one that needs to be addressed, know that this isn’t your last time. Heart work, healing work continues. Two bodies don’t have to be on earth to continue learning and forgiving.

But take this moment, say the words, “I forgive you. Will you forgive me?”

Whether it comes out just like that–or in some other form, words or no words, allow the power of forgiveness to change you.

~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

 

 

Forgivess quotes:

Forgiveness is the giving, and the receiving, of life.     George MacDonald

Forgivess is the frangrance the violet gives when the heal has crushed it.    Mark Twain

Forgivness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr

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