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I have a magnet on my back door that reads, “Cherish this moment. This moment IS your life.”

As caregivers, we sometimes think we’re living for our loved ones. We’ve put our life “on hold,” and as soon as they’re better, or after that die, we’ll get our life back. Not a great way to look at caregiving–or your life. No wonder we feel resentment. No wonder we’re always agitated, gripey, or zone out–we’re constantly saying (whether we realize it or not, we’re giving out the message),  “I don’t want to be here.”

But what if “here” is all you’ve got? All you’re ever going to get?

Remember that great line in the movie As Good As It Gets?”

 Melvin Udall, played by Jack Nicholson is plagued so badly with OCD that his life is nothing but self-imposed rules. He can’t allow people or love into his life because they’ll make a mess, cause him to step on a crack in the sidewalk, or mess up his arrangement of silverware. He falls in love with a waitress who has a “messy” life. Not enough money, a sick child, living with her mom and waitressing for a living. (The quotes are so, so good from this movie, check out a few here)

After almost losing the love of his life because he’s so darn difficult, he decides he’s got to get better, he’s got to get help. He barges into his psychiatrist’s office and demands to be seen. He looks around and sees an office full of scared and miserable people. People waiting for their life to start. Waiting for their OCD to go away. Waiting.

He can’t wait any longer.

He blurts, “Wake up, people. What if this is as good as it gets?!”

So I ask you, what if your life right now, today, is as good as it gets?

Are you going to give up, go to bed and pull the covers over your head? Forever? No, you’re going to make it work. Sadly, the end of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is death. So yes, there’s a way out, just not a good one. But death is the way out for all of us, so don’t let that get you down.

I love a little book that came out a few years ago, “Do One Thing Different” and the concept really stuck with me. When you’re caregiving, much of your life is structured around meds, treatments, and rehab, so jumping into a full exercise routine or enrolling full-time in college really isn’t an option. But you can change one thing. One thing that takes, oh, ten minutes a day–or less. Don’t tell me you don’t have ten minutes. Everybody wastes ten minutes–on tv, over-cleaning, or chowing down on something that’s not even all that tasty.

For me, I’m concentrating on my waist. Sounds silly, but according to many health experts, your waist circumference determines how healthy you are. Women need to be under 35, and men under 40. Those are pretty generous numbers, (American size), and I’m fortunate to have a pear shape, but I figure that instead of going for a total body makeover I’d never achieve, I’d spend ten minutes a day doing exercises that focus just on my waist. Ten minutes. I’m not going crazy and saying I’m going to workout 2 hours a day when I’m know good and well  that’ll last about 2 days. I can coax myself into ten minutes working out in front of the tv instead of sitting in front of the tv.

The other thing I’m focusing on is brushing up on my Spanish. I may be spending time in South America this fall, and although I don’t want to fork out $400 for Rosetta Stone, I went online and found several YouTube and iTunes Spanish lessons for free. I’m also going to a used bookstore in town, trading in some old books and buying some children’s books in Spanish to read. So the way I look at it, these two small items allow me to exercise my body and my mind with little or no cash outlay needed.

When do I say, “That will have to wait until after my caregiving years are over.”

Really? Is there some small way you could jump start process?

Remember, everything that has come into creation was once just a thought. Jack Canfield wrote an amazing book, “The Success Principles,”in which he describes years ago when he was only hoping to be a sought after speaker and author how he wanted to go to Australia to speak. He had never been asked to speak internationally, so it was unlikely he’d get a call from “down under.” So he went to a travel store and bought a poster of Sydney’s famous opera house and hung it in his office. Within a year, he was speaking in Australia.

Take it down to your level. Maybe you’re dreaming of a vacation. Take out that seashell you picked up a few years ago and put it on your kitchen counter–just as reminder–and a way to lay claim to your own future. Check out a book from the library about where you’d like to go, or visit an online forum where other travelers have been there and suggest places to go and see. Daydreaming is great way to get your mind off the daily caregiving stress.

I know you can’t just get in your car and drive away (although that was one of my favorite fantasies–I was going to drive to Key West, and still might!) But you can start with one small change. Don’t put your entire life on hold–it won’t even make you a better caregiver, just a fussier one.

I hope you’ll take me up and drop me a line at writecarol@comcast.net or leave a comment and share what one small change you’ve made.

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Don’t think it can’t happen.

 

Elder suicide rates are up in the United States and it usually start with depression–also a major factor in the elderly.

 

It’s a deadly combination–life debilitating illness, loss of spouse, career, a terminal diagnosis, medications all exasperate the situation.

 

But it’s not the way we want it to end.

It’s not the family legacy most of us aspire to.

 

Depression affects approximately 19 million Americans per year, (National Institutes of Mental Health, 2000).

 

Depression is often not recognized in the elderly because the symptoms can be attributed to “normal aging.” How sad, that we have come to believe that melancholy, lethargy and apathy are connected to older age.

 

Nearly 6% of the people in the United States over the age of 65 have a diagnosable form of depression, and while adults age 65 make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 20 percent of all suicide deaths.

 

We should be more alarmed.

 

Who is most at risk? Our dads. Our husbands. Our brothers. 

 

Male Caucasian are the over the age of 85 are the the highest suicide rate in the nation (National Institute of Mental Health, 2000). But don’t think mom is out of danger. While men tend to be more violent in their attempts, women tend to lead toward pills.

They’re also not talking. Elders are not like teenagers who threaten, make dramatic attempts in order to stopped (subconsciously). Many elders are not comfortable talking about mental illness and so they suffer intense feelings of loss, hopelessness and despair alone–never realizing there is help. They don’t have to feel this way.

Factors that Lead to Suicide: 

  • Recent loss of a spouse, loved one, or pet
  • Debilitating or life-threatening illness
  • Pain, especially if pain is severe, chronic, and/or inescapable
  • Loss of independence and/or mobility
  • Inability to live alone
  • Loss of employment or productive activities
  • Financial difficulties
  • Depression
  • Alcohol abuse and/or dependence
  • Loss of role or stature in family and community
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Physical, social, and emotional isolation

What are the Warning Signs:

  • Statements about death and suicide
  • Reading material about death and suicide
  • Statements of hopelessness or helplessness (e.g., “I don’t know if I can go on.”)
  • Disruption of sleep patterns
  • Increased alcohol or prescription drug use
  • Failure to take care of self or follow medical orders
  • Stockpiling medications
  • Sudden interest in firearms
  • Social withdrawal or elaborate good-byes
  • Rush to complete or revise a will
  • Overt suicide threats

How to Help:

  • Be aware of your elder’s emotional state
  • Be sensitive in times of a new loss, such as the loss of a beloved pet or dear friend
  • Consider filtering the news–more negativity about the state of the world, wars, and the economy might not be the best thing for any of us to focus on 
  • Make a list of who your elder or spouse is most likely to talk to–a priest or pastor, a close friend, a nurse or doctor they’re closest to–let this person know of your concerns and ask them to listen closely for tell-tale signs.
  • If you’re truly concerned, then talk openly about your concerns of depression and the risk of suicide. Don’t think you’ll cause suicide by talking about it. 
  • Let them know that their thoughts and feelings are normal, that despair is common, and that there are people who care who can help, that part of their feelings are triggered by life events, but also diseases and medication play into this.
  • Let them know you’re not judging them. Life is hard. But this is not an option. You are there to help. There are medications, people to talk to, that their thoughts and feelings can change. Life is full of changes and this situation doesn’t have to stay the same.

I’m Afraid to Broach the Subject:

  • They will get angry with me or deny it. So what if they do? This is too important and the risk is worth it. You don’t want all your love, time and caregiving to end this way. You don’t want this blow to hit you and your loved ones.
  • I might put the suicidal thoughts into their heads. If your loved one is having suicidal thoughts, then they’ve probably been having them for weeks, months, or even years. For many people, depression is a lifelong battle and this may not be the first time they’ve found themselves in this debilitating emotional state. It is extremely unlikely that a caring question from another would convince a person, whether truly depressed or not, to commit suicide.

 

  • I won’t know what to say. I know, this is tough. Bungle your way through it. Don’t think you’ll handle this perfect. You have no experience (I hope). Your love and emotions will come through no matter what words you are able to get out. It’s not your words that will convince them to get help–it’s your love and concern.

 

  • Suicide greatly affects your life and other family members. Suicide ripples into the fabric of humanity. It’s a devastating blow for those nearby, so do all you can to prevent this tragedy.

 

  • End of life and palliative care (to reduce pain during the last weeks and days of dying) is a different subject. This is a highly controversial area and one that should be handled privately with your “council of elders” (family, chaplainor other faith leader, hospice, etc.).

How to Help Someone Who is Deeply Depressed and May Be Suicidal:

  • Be sensitive, honest and straightforward. Come right out and ask:  “Dad, I’ve been worried about you lately. You seem pretty down. I’ve noticed that you aren’t seeing your friends any more, and you’ve talked about not wanting to go on. Would you really want to die?”)
  • Listen. After you’ve opened the discussion, then let them talk. Listen–listen all day long, ask questions that will encourage them to continue to talk and open up. Caregiving is more about listening than it is a to-do list.
  • Seek help yourself–dealing with someone who is suicidal kicks up all kinds of emotions, particularly if they’re your spouse or parent or other close family member. Talk to your pastor or doctor or call a suicide hotlineand let them know what you’re dealing with. Alzheimer’s Association and other organizations also have great hotlines withpeople who care, who know what it’s like to deal with depression and stress on top of a horrific disease. Reach out.

What If I Find Out They Are Contemplating Suicide:

  • Do your homework. Make sure you know about the resources available in your area:
  • Check the front of your telephone directory–or the Internet,as well as your local community mental health unit. They often have suicide hotlines and emergency inpatient crisis stabilization units available if the danger of suicide is high.
  • Let your elder/spouse’s doctor know. Certain diseases and medications can aggravate the situation.
  • A psychologist, psychiatrist or other therapist is another good option but check with your insurance as to what is covered.

Practical Things You Can Do:

  • Get the guns out of the house
  • Monitor all medications, including your own
  • Stay close by. If you’re in a particularly dangerous time, monitor them 24/7 by granny cam/baby monitors
  • Take threats serious and cause a fuss–make it unappealing to try again
  • Get help immediately if there is an attempt. Don’t worry about embarrassment–this is bigger than that.

YOU need to deal with this in your own life and heart. YOU can’t control what someone else does, so stay with you. Love you. Care for you.

 

Your goal is to prevent a tragedy. Be aware. Be sensitive. Speakup–this is worth fighting for.

 

Resources:

www.metanoia.org/suicide/

www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

www.save.org/

suicidehotlines.com/

 

~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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 “We’re Not That Close:” Celebrations for Relationship Challenged Mothers and Daughters How do you celebrate Mother’s Day (or birthdays and other special days) if your relationship is less than perfect?   

  • Plan an activity: go to the zoo, a concert, a spa day, or a play—doing something is a good way to avoid getting into sticky issues
  • Keep the time-frame short—a couple of hours is plenty for you to be on your best behavior
  • Focus on one good moment and hold that in your thoughts. If you can, thank her for that day, that time she was there for you. Being grateful for the smallest act of kindness is good for everyone.
  • Include other people so there’s people to buffer you–kids, cousins, even your mother’s friends. Sandwich generation moms can buffer with family, so use it to your advantage
  • Promise yourself a treat for being “nice” and then follow through
  • Relax and let snide comments, digs, and hints for you to do more/be more roll off your back. Be proud of yourself for taking the high road.
  • If your mother has Alzheimer’s or is in a care facility, you might honor her by remembering a care person in her life–thank that person for doing what you can’t.
  • Consider an anti-mother’s day-day. Be with your mom during the week or on that Saturday, but take the pressure off that day. Do something unusual—repaint your bedroom in teal, rent mopeds with a friend, and celebrate the fact that you already honored your mom and now you can honor you.  

Accept your relationship as it is today. Hope and believe that the future will be easier, but for now laugh at the quirks and frustrations of life. Some of the most challenging relationships teach us the most. Focus on what you’ve learned about yourself, how resilient you are, and how you choose to love past the imperfections of life.

Carol D. O’Dell Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Huorous and Heartbreaking Memoiravailable on Amazon www.mothering-mother.comwww.kunati.com

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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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Join Author and Presenter Carol D. O’Dell

January 11th and 12th

Floricda Association of Professional Geriatric
Care
Managers Retreat
“Breakfast With Carol: Finding and Keeping Your Everyday Joy”
8am

Sarasota, Florida

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

January 14th

Amelia Island Book Club

Author Chat

7pm

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January 19th, 10am

Florida Writer’s Association Meeting in the Ancient City
St. Augustine, Florida

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

January 28-April 4th, Wednesdays 1-3pm

University of North Florida
Lifelong Learning Institute

Neptune Beach Community Center
Memoir Class (Carol D. O’Dell, instructor)

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

 Feb 1, 2008

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Conference

Savannah, Ga.

followed by a booksigning at

Books A Million

8108 Abercorn St
Savannah, GA 31406
(912) 925-8112

5-9pm

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

Feb. 2, 2008

Caregiving Conference

Orange Park, Florida

10am-4pm

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

Feb. 9th, 2008

North Florida Writers

2pm

Wesconnett Library on 103rd St.

Jacksonville, Florida

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

Feb. 23, 2008

Booksignng at

Borders Bookstore

6837 W Newberry Rd
Gainesville, FL 32605
(352) 331-2722

1-4pm

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

March

Miami Dade Library Talk

tba

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March 12th, 6pm

Voice of America Radio
Healing the Grieving Heart with Gloria Horsley

March 29, 2008

Atlanta Writers Club

Proposal Workshop

9am-6pm

$90.00

Register through www.atlantawritersclub.org

Location: tba

Check Back for More Events!


 

 

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