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Archive for the ‘intimacy’ Category

I’m not much for regrets. I don’t think we as individuals, family members, or caregivers should even strive to perfect. Our faults and foibles define us and teach us. Besides, have you ever been around someone who was trying too hard? It’s exhausting and annoying. I love the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi–the beauty found in imperfection.

I found this definition at Nobel Harbor, written by Tadao Ando, a Japanese architect. This essay on Wabi Sabi so touched me that I thought I’d share it–it’s how I strive to live my life.

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

But I do wish I had known back then what I know now.

In regard to caring for my mother, I tell myself I was busy. There was never enough of “me” to go around. I had to eek out my time and love in tiny drops just to give everybody a piece. That was true, and asking a caregiver to stop spinning in a maddening circle is asking them to do the impossible.

The  busy-ness (observation–busy-nessand business is not necessarily the same), franticness, never stop breakneck speed is a protective stance.

I had a the privilege of being a real part of my mother’s life the last 15 years she was on earth. Daddy had died, and I was her closest relative. Although I’m adopted, that doesn’t change anything in terms of family dynamics–they were my parents, and I was their daughter. If anything, adoption added a little extra cement to our bond. 

I spent hours and hours with my mother–driving her to doctor appointments, to the grocery store, and to the million errands she could concoct just to get out of the house. And in the end, my mother lived with my family and me–she became a part of the O’Dell household complete with two dogs, two cats, three teenagers, my husband and myself. Most of the time she didn’t think about being a part of anything–by then, life, she believed, evolved around her. It was my job to incorporate her, create balance to my home, and not let anyone yell “fire” and hog all the time and attention away from the delicate harmony of our home.

So there I was, always on the go. Always avoiding. Always, even when sitting perfectly still on the outside, whizzing around in my soul like a gyro-top. It was fueled by panic, fear, sorrow, loss, and the underlying thought, “I can’t do this–be responsible for my mother’s life, for my children–I can’t do all this.”

But now I know.

What’s more important than making every doctor’s appointment, than reading about Alzheimer’s, then cutting pill after pill, then the calls to Medicare and home health aides was this:

What my mother (and my husband, children, and friends) needed from me more than anything–was a good conversation.

There isn’t anything in the world as loving and respectful as someone who will sit with you, look you in the eye, listen to what you have to say–and contribute to the conversation. The easy banter of thoughts, hopes, fears, and chit-chat of life is deeply satisfying.

My mother didn’t move into my home just to have a list of needs met every day. Anyone could do that. On some level she was hoping we’d have a few minutes–to simply be. Not to agree with one another, not to be little clones spouting off the same agendas, but to sit as bookends, side-by-side observing life.

That’s what my mother needed. What I needed. I couldn’t do much to speed up or postpone death. We can’t change much about life in the big scheme of things–but what is within our capabilities is how we interact with one another. We can choose to create a time and space for real connection to happen. It can’t be forced or cajoled.

Having one genuine moment of understanding–a said or unsaid conversation is rare and most precious.

I remember a conversation my mother and I had when I was about eleven years old. We were in the car outside of church waiting for Daddy to get out of an elder meeting. Something big was going down–there were rumors that our pastor had had an affair. Even the kids knew about it. I was just old enough to know what that meant–and young enough to think that life was black–or white–nothing in between.

I was in the back seat, mother was in the front, filing her nails, as usual. We both stopped what we were doing and looked at the church.

“Why doesn’t his wife just leave him and the church just fire him.” I said, angry that this pastor I had looked up to had betrayed me as well.

“It’s not that easy, honey.”

That’s all Mother said. I laid my head on the ledge of the front seat, and she continued to look at the building in front of us, at the steeple that strained into a blue sky.

I learned a lot that day–by all that she didn’t say.

We’d have many conversations over the next almost 40 years. Many times we’d talk at each other, alienate each other, blast each other–but every once in a while, there would be that cord that stretched from her to me and back to her again.

I’ll spend the next few posts exploring what makes a good conversation, how to talk to someone we love–someone who is ill or aged, or someone we have issues with–thorns that make us wince at the thought of a meaningful conversation. I’ll write about how to talk–or be with someone you love who no longer can speak, or comprehend who you are.

There are lots of great sites on the Internet about families, caregiving, Alzheimer’s, elder-careparentsand children–but nothing is more important than quieting your thoughts, unwinding the pent-up soul, and taking a few moments to sit quietly–and talk.

~Carol O’Dell

I hope you’ll check out my book, Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir–on sale at Amazon, other online e-tailers, and in most bookstores.

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Do you hear the tick, tick, tick of the death clock?

What’s the death clock you ask?

The death clock, is a website that calculates (with a little information you add in) the exact day you will die.

Sounds morbid, right?

I agree, but take this as a bit of fun and not too serious.

Playing with death–trying it on for size is one way humans deal with the tragedies of life–kind of like playing dress up with your mother’s high heels and your dad’s jacket.

So, I went to www.deathclock.com, (there’s also a few others– http://www.findyourfate.com/deathmeter/deathmtr.html, http://deathdate.info, http://www.death-clock.org/) and put in my numbers.

I didn’t really want to know when I’d die. But I have to admit, I was curious.

How can you not be curious?

I was raised in a uber-religious home and this sounded like fortune telling–something stricly forbidden to dabble in–which means it’s even more tempting, dangerous, and oh so fascinating…(yeah, I’ve got a bit of a rebellious streak in me, I can’t deny it).

So I typed in my info, and you know what? I feel better!

It says I’m going to live until I’m 100 years old.

Instead of feeling depressed about knowing my “D day,” I felt expanded.

100 feels pretty far away. I’m not quite half there. I still have a a whole lotta livin’ to do. 

I do take in account I could get hit by the proverbial bus at any time–that lightening could strike me for visiting that heathen site, (sorry, Mama!) or a myriad of other diseases and accidents could come barrel my way–but I’m not the type of person to be paralyzed by the “what ifs” of life. 

But I’ve seen the dark side of agin. I know what Alzheimer’s looks like, about the challenges that come with aging.

My dad died of heart disease at 78, and my mother lived with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and died at the age of 92 (they were my adoptive parents and older than most parents). I was her primary caregiver and she lived with my family and I the last three years of her life.

I wrote every day my mother lived with us.

I wrote what it’s like for her to live with this disease, what it was like for me, her daughter to struggle with the challenges of being a sandwich generation-er. I wrote about our fears, our fights, our hurts, our day-to-day challenges, and the truth about the guilt and resentment caregivers and families are afraid to say out loud.

Our story became a book, Mothering Mother and has been read by thousands.

The fact is, if you live long enough, you stand a real strong chance of getting Alzheimer’s.

Deal with it. Sounds cold, but what I mean is…do what you can now to take care of yourself.

Eat healthy, have a good attitude, walk every day. Forgive.

Those are the best ways I know of to stave off that dreaded disease.

And even if you get a diagnosis, don’t just crawl up and die. You still have time–love your family–leave a legacy. Don’t spend your precious time worrying.

I don’t know if you want to try the death clock–if it all seems like a bunch of hoo-haa.–but if you’re feeling brave, then take a twirl with the grim reaper and give it a try.

A few years ago, I wrote a “100 Things To Do in My Life” List.

I wrote it while we were on vacation. I wrote it around the margins of an old Rand McNally atlas we had in the car–apprapo, I guess.

I wrote things like:

  1. Go back to college and get my BFA
  2. Design and make a bronze sculpture
  3. Visit the Vincent Van Gogh Gallery in Amsterdam
  4. Publish books (plural)
  5. Take a cooking class in Napa
  6. Repaint all my favorite Van Goghs myself
  7. Create cool yard art–and sell it
  8. Be paid 500 bucks an hour to speak and inspire people
  9. Be on the board of a charity/organization and help make a difference
  10. Design an Italian garden
  11. Have a 30+year writing career
  12. Be a GREAT grandma
  13. Speak French, Italian and Spanish fluently
  14. Live in the South of France for several months
  15. Win a PEN award
  16. Stay married, stay healthy
  17. Forgive and not grow bitter

I wrote this in 1999. I was dreaming big,. I packed it away and didn’t look at it for more than five years. My heart and my words guided me intuitively.

There are 126 items on my master list.

Of the 16 I listed here, 11 have already come to fruition.

I have 53 years to achieve the rest.

A friend of mine said she saw The Bucket List this week and that she loved it, but a friend of hers said they wanted a list of all the things they didn’t want to do–a “Chuck It” list. I like that idea too.

Or you could do an “anti-list.”

Remember that edisode on Grey’s Anatomy when that guy found out he was dying and decided to video-taped himself chewing out all the people he hated/who had hurt and humiliated him? This is what he chose to do before he died.

How cleansing! To leave this world feeling like you said your peace. Perhaps is he had done this sooner, he wouldn’t be dying.

What would be on your anti-list?

I’d love to never ever have another root canal…how about you?

So maybe I should rename the Death Clock to the LIVE clock.

After all, I have a list that needs a whole lot more check marks. Instead of counting down the days until I die, I should count each day I’m living.

Instead of following the old cliche, “Live a little.” I think I’ll rewrite it:

Live A lot!”

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Kunati books, www.kunati.com/motheringmother

Family advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

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There’s no way to stay in a long-term relationship and not have issues.

Hurts, frustrations, “you weren’t there for me,” “I can’t believe you said that, betrayals and disappointments are all a part of being human.

Whether you’re in a committed relationship, married, have children, adult children, siblings, and even friends must eventually hit this road block in their relationship.

Yet most people don’t speak up. They get hurt or mad and they don’t say anything–not to the person who they’re mad or hurt at–maybe they complain to someone else, or just stuff it.

The relationship begins to wane. It feels like work. You grow apart and you don’t even know why.

We tend to fight with our spouses/significant others the most.

But we’re not good at it.

If you do fight, you use dirty tactics. Accusations, you always, you never, you did this, you didn’t do that, and before long you’ve got a tangled history together and whatever issues you had in the beginning–seeds of doubt, hurt, mistrust–they’re all there playing over and over in each new scenario. 

This can cause deep and lifelong issues.

Divorces are so common that they’re barely a blip in a conversation to say a friend got a divorce. No one really asks or wants to know why–and yet those who go through it know that it’s devastating on the heart, head, pocketbook, and most importantly, how you perceive yourself.

How do you stop this cycle?

Two easy steps.

Before I share with you what they are, let me assure you I’m learning how to do this myself.

I have grown daughters and I really don’t want them to hate their mom. I don’t want them to complain about me for years–to everybody else but to me–and then for us to wonder in my old age what went wrong. I don’t want their emotional pockets filled with boulders of hurt, disappointment and frustration.

So, I took a big deep gulp and called one of my daughters today.

I apologized for an issue I’d heard was bothering her. I took accountability.

Then, I asked her that in the future she tell me when she’s hurt or frustrated with me.

I told her that I had blamed my own mother for emotional “crap: for years. I had griped and whined and didn’t let go over things that really didn’t matter in the big scheme of things. I should have let her off the hook and I didn’t. Eventually yes, we came to a place of peace but I carried around those stones for far too long.

I asked my daughter to come to me. I gave her permission to approach me when I’m irritating.

I told her that I want to become a better person–a better mother–and how can I do that if she doesn’t let me know what’s hurtful or frustrating? I told her that I dearly loved her and I wanted a healthy relationship with her.

It took her off guard. Most people I know don’t have this conversation often enough–if at all.

I learned it primarily from life–from living long enough to have a few regrets. I don’t want regrets, hurts, and disappointments to plague my life and mind. I want to lighter, free-er and more joyful–and I can’t get there without letting go of a few things along the way.

I was crying by the time I got through. It was vulnerable and scary–but I really, really want to have a good relationship on my daughters based on respect, love, and tenderness toward one another. I also need to be thier role model as a woman, wife, mother, and friend.

IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP IN TWO EASY STEPS:

1.     I ask you, give you permission to tell me when I”m being difficult, frustrating, or I’ve hurt or disappointed you.

2.     The easiest way I know to do this is to start the conversation by….”It really hurt when you _________.” I felt so _______________ when you did that. Next time please _______________.

**********************

It sounds so simple, but it’s so scary!

I also told her that if she didn’t come out and say something by the end of 90 days I was going to ask her because I’m sure that I can irritate anybody by the end of 90 days.

Author and speaker Jack Canfield wrote about doing this in his book, The Success Principles. I would eat that book, digest it and live by it if I could. It’s such a Bible of personal integrity, purpose, and meaning that’s rare, particularly in the media world.

Jack said that he asks his wife at the end of each week (as well as his co-workers–and he owns a MAJOR company) on a scale of 1-10, how did he do this week–as a husband? Boss?

After that he asks, “How can I make it a 10?”

That takes guts. I’m impressed.

We’re so afraid of being criticized that we don’t realize that’s how we grow and change.

Whether you’re a caregiver, an adult child, an elder parent, a spouse or sibling, I encourage you to take this little two-step script, print it off if you have to, and have this very important conversation. It’s vital when you’re dealing with end of life issues, when you return to care for your family and all your tangled history is in your face and your life again. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

And it doesn’t mean everything can be fixed. Or that you should try to make someone happy all the time.

This is meant to open the dialogue. To understand each other–not as a giant wish list. Sometimes boundaries and respect are what’s really the goal.

Let’s heal old wounds. Forgive. And make new choices about how we treat each other.

I plan to follow through. This wasn’t a “Mom’s feeling all sentimental” moment. I want to brave enough and big enough to forge healthy relationships.

I want to be so light by the time I die I just float into eternity. (sappy, I know!)

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

www.kunati.comKunati Publishers, Winner of ForeWord’s Small Publisher of the Year Award

 

 

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Face it, times are tough.

Can you afford to stay in your own home? Are you well enough to manage everything on your own?

Are you recently widowed and wonder if living by yourself is such a good idea?

Are you a boomer or sandwich generationer wondering how to care for/pay for your kids, your parents and save for your own retirement?

You (or your elder loved one) might be the type of person who would rather live in your own home or with someone you know rather than move into a care facility. Besides, care costs are astronomical. Even with medicare and medicaid, there are still a lot of hidden and unexpected costs, not to mention how challenging it is to find a care facility where you enjoy the people and the staff and get the care you need and deserve.

There are many reasons why family caregiving is a great option–it’s easier to take care of your loved ones if they’re living with you, most people prefer being with or near family, you tend to get better care from relatives and close friends, and it’s cheaper.

No wonder 80% of the elderly population rely on family caregiving.

In today’s precarious economy, it might just be a necessity.

I know of several friends and neighbors who had lost their jobs due to downsizing, budget cuts, and forced (or high encouraged) early retirement. Gas is four dollars a gallon and I almost paid ten bucks for a two pound bag of cherries at the grocery store today. I told the cashier I wouldn’t be buying those, thank you very much.

The strapped economy is hitting everyone, particularly the elderly who have to have their meds, pay for rising electricity costs still get to their doctor appointments. These aren’t luxuries. Nursing home costs are staggering, and not all are covered my medicare and medicaid. On average, the daily cost ifor a care facility s $350.00 a day–and memory impaired units range from about $450.-700.00 a day. A day.

But moving in with your adult children might not be ideal either.

Most people want to remain independent for as long as possible.

How do you stay in your own home? 

Plan early. Look into www.aginginplace.org

Consider long term care, but make sure you go with a reputable company who will be in business and honor their contracts for years to come.

  • When you buy what you think will be your last home, consider city, driving distance, doctor’s, care facilities, and senior resources. Can you live there after you can no longer drive? Can you use a community van or are there taxis? Is your home/bedroom on the first floor? Can you manage the maintance of your house and yard? Plan, plan, plan.
  • Buy property and build a smaller house or a garage that could be converted for a caregiver or family member. It’s an investment you’ll get to keep–and when or if you need to sell, it’s only improved your property value.
  • Consder renting a room–to another senior and split certain home or home health care charges
  • Convert a garage or attic and rent to a relative or younger person. You might even consider rent in  in exchange for services–college age, divorcees, and many people would benefit from this arrangement as well as nieces or nephews just starting out in life
  • Build an apartment onto your home–or if you do move into your children’s home, build one onto theirs so you still have privacy and can come and go as you please
  • As time goes on, consider a small group home run by a licensed care worker who only takes in 4-8 persons–ususally, the charges are less although they can do less for you medically, so consider your health and medical needs in making this decision

How to Live with Family Members Without Hating Each Other

  • Establish rules up front–realistically know you’ll have differences and times when you need to talk honestly about what’s bothering you. Make sure you can sit down and do this knowing you’ll be heard and respected–and that you offer the same in return
  • Know that there will be a honeymoon time, aand a time of disillusionment when you wonder if you made the right decision–but also know that this too will pass
  • Accept that change is inevitable. Don’t pine away for what once was–embrace the now and choose to find the good in each day
  • Give each other privacy–still knock and be considerate of quiet, rest, and alone time
  • Be sensitive–if your loved one is acting odd, they might be going through something they can’t share or verbalize–there’s a time to be tender and patient with each other
  • Plan certain meals or times together–but don’t overdo it
  • Hire caregiving or chore help–don’t expect your family to do it all
  • Find ways to be needed and give. Help out–offer to do a consistent job
  • Try not to complain about your health or living conditions–everything may not be perfect, but it still might be better than your other choices
  • Refrain from commenting on their life choices–how they dress, where they go to church (or not), the state of their marriage–do more listening than advising
  • Make friends and connections, don’t rely on your family to be your everything
  • Smile, be easy to get along with, and show gratitude–it’s contagious, so maybe you’ll get some in return
  • If you do have an issue, don’t let it fester. Sit down, say your peace, have a possible solution in mind, and then deal with it and let it go
  • Eventually–about six months to a year after moving in together, you’ll begin to settle in but it may take up to two years for it to feel like home. You might feel lonely at times, lost and undefined.
  • Be sure to reach out to your new community–join a club, a senior citizen center or a church–make new friends–even if it’s hard or scary, it’ll be worth it. We all need friends.
  • Accept your place of honor and dignity–you hold a special place in the family, but you have to know that and own it first before anyone else does. Embody a sense of wisdom, confidence, and respect within yourself–others will begin to sense it when they’re around you.
  • Expect that at some point you’ll have a big fight or misunderstanding. Families do those kinds of things. It’s okay. Forgive each other. Be quick to say, “I’m sorry.” Laugh about it.  Even if there were yelling and pouting involved, so what? People act crazy at times. Who else can you act up with other than your family?

Family caregiving is part of who we are. No amount of money can buy love. If you’re blessed enough to have a brave enough family who are willing to be togehter, love and care for one another in one way or the other, be grateful.

I was a family caregiver. I brought my mother, who had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, into our home. We built her an apartment onto our home. She lived with us for close to three years. So I know what caregivers face. I know how hard at times, it could be–the physical work, the emotional undertow that gets kicked up, the strain of living together after years of running your own house. All this takes some getting used to.

It’s okay to be mad, hurt, or frustrated with a family member. Families are resilient. They know how to love fierce and forgive easily (or in some cases, eventually). As my friend and fellow author Cheryl Kaye Tardif says, “It’s not about how to live with your family without hating them–it’s about living with your family without killing them! You can hate all you want!”

Emotions come and go. Family committment runs deep.

Life changes and people aren’t perfect, but a family is a great thing to have.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother, available in hardback or on Kindle

www.caroldodell.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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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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I received a great email the other day from Gourete, and she used the term, “Rabid Caregiver.”

I had to laugh! I thought of the sign you put on a  chain link fence: “Guard Dog: Beware.”

Even if you didn’t see a dog, you were expecting a vicious Rottweiler to leap out and show his foaming, gnarling teeth.

 You knew if he jumped that fence you were in big trouble. Stephen King didn’t write Cujo for nothing.

Yep, that fits the description of a rabid caregiver.

There were just some days when I was not pleasant to anyone. I always had a fantasy of getting in my car and driving to some podunk seaside town and becoming a seedy (okay, delicate boned, long-haired melancholy) waitress and change my name to Lola so no one would find me.

I blame it on lack of sleep, monotony, my mother’s uncanny ability to hardly walk due to Parkinson’s and even though she had Alzheimer’s and forgot my name (I became, “Little Girl” after a while), and there were times couldn’t tell the difference between a telephone and a house shoe, somehow she could still find ways to be manipulative and undermining.

And then there were the mounting frustrations with a health care system that didn’t seem to listen to me, or help my mother in ways I really believed they could–not to mention that I was raising three teenagers (one away at college, but trust me, that “ain’t grown”), and the normal give and take of a marriage.

I was going to snap. I’d walk out the back door, down to the river and scream. Screaming is good. Find a closet, a pillow, a car–and go scream. I also imagined my life under different circumstances….

I wrote in Mothering Mother:

Thrive

I’ve decided to turn myself into the Department of Family and Children Services.

I’ll call in a report using one of those voice change deals you see on movies when the bad guys ask for a ransom.

I’ll tell them I’m an unfit mother, I mean, daughter. I’ll tell them Mother’s failing to thrive. That’s what nurses say about babies who aren’t doing well, when they’re not gaining weight or responding to stimulus. I’ll tell them we’re not bonding.

I’ll try and look sad when they take her away.“My baby, my baby!”

I’ll sob at the front door for a good show. I hope they won’t notice the beach bag next to my feet stuffed with my car keys, a book, and sunscreen. They’ll put her in a foster home. I hope they have Klondike Bars or she’ll be one unhappy guest.

I don’t think I’ll tell them she’s delirious; it’ll take them a little longer to assess the situation if they don’t know exactly what they’re dealing with. They’ll tell me I have supervised visitation privileges. Maybe I’ll tell them I pose a threat and then I’ll twitch.

Maybe they’ll get me therapy. I love therapy. I like talking about me.

I’d love to sit in a clean office and read magazines I don’t ever get to buy and drink chilled water out of the water cooler in those cone shaped paper cups. I hope the person in front of me has some serious issues and they have to go into overtime, like a baseball game when the score is tied at the end of the ninth inning.

I like those pictures that health care facilities have on their walls—the ones with uplifting nature scenes and quotes on the bottom: Success is when preparation meets opportunity, or something equally nauseating.

I might have to have some fun with the counselor, as she looks at me with a glazed face that only years of institutionalized learning can produce. I’ll make up a humdinger of a story, like Mother beat me when I was a kid. Wait, that part’s true.

Maybe they’ll give me medication, though I prefer to remember my pain. It keeps me from going through things twice.

I might suggest rehab. Twenty-eight days in a serene environment with grounds that rival the Augusta National’s will give me a place to roll down hills and get in touch with my inner child.I’m more afraid DFACS will decide to give me a second chance, and I’ll have to go to court where a judge will review my records then tell me I can have full custody again.

In that case, I might have to have a relapse. 

Cujo, oh yeah.

I remember scratching my head a lot. It’s a nervous habit, something I do when I’m frustrated. I won’t mention all my other nervous ticks.

I stopped calling my friends because God knows I didn’t want to hear me complain, I couldn’t imagine they did.

I gained 30 pounds and man, was that easy to do!

The only perk that came out of grumpy mood was that I cut a couple of toxic people out of my life.

Mother was consuming my patience like a gas guzzling Hummer and I had nothing left for anyone else who crossed me, and I just did it. Nice girl, me–ousted a couple of folks who to this day still don’t know why. I just remember one day thinking, “Mother’s all I can handle, and I don’t need anyone else pushing my buttons.”

I find that bad mood jags are a vortex that just won’t stop.

You don’t mean to fall in the swirl, but once you’re in you can’t get out. I’d mull over what mother said, mull over the fight with the nurse, mull over the fact that my daughter just left on the back of a crotch rocket (a very uncomfortable motorcycle in which your butt sits up higher than your head and no one over 35 would want to ride).

Are you in a vortex can’t seem to get out of?

Is everybody bugging you?

Do you walk around with a scowl on your face?

Try writing a fantasy. I swear, it helps.

If you send them to me at writecarol@comcast.net,

I’ll publish them–anonymously if you need me to.

It’s great fun, and I promise you’ll feel better.

~Carol D. O”Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

www.kunati.com 

Kunati Publishing

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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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