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Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

Let me guess: your morning caregiving routine is pretty spelled out for you. It probably includes dressing and feeding your care buddy (mom, dad, spouse) and yes, the meds. Every day–2,3, 4 times a day you dole out the meds. Your routine may also include some physical therapy, schedule doctor appointments, argue with your insurance comapny, trips to the store and pharmacy. Sound familiar?

Those aren’t the caregiving rituals I’m talking about. I’m referring to what you do before you do all that.

“What?” You may ask, “Roll out of bed, throw on my house coat and get busy?”

No wonder you’re burned out (yes, I mean you!)

Without a daily ritual that supports and under-girds all you do, you will become burned out (if you’re not already).

Caregiving is more than just a bunch of “to-do’s” It’s not merely a never-ending list of meds and doctor appointments. Caregiving is part of your relationship. Not all, but part. Caregiving has something to give you, to teach you–if you perk up your ears and your heart and listen.

What you’re doing is actually important, and not just on a physical level. But it has to start early in the morning. As a sandwich genaration mom, once I opened my bedroom door, I stepped into a raging river. My morning rituals gave me the strength and insight to face what might be on the other side of that door.

Ways to Create Meaning Through Your Caregiving Ritual:

  • Make your bedroom and your bathroom a sanctuary.
  • An easy quick fix that can change your mood is color–paint your bedroom–at least one wall.
  • Do you need a soothing color? Blushes, creams and peaches? Or do you need a joyful color? Turqoise, chartreuse or magenta?
  • Is your bedroom junky? The dumping ground while all the rest of the house looks relatively good? Well it’s time to change that! Even if you don’t have but 5 minutes, pick up the stuff that’s cluttering your floors and dresser tops and take them some place else–anywhere else. You deserve a serene room. You deserve beauty and order. Clean it up later, but get it out of your room–today!
  • Consider an electric water/tea kettle or a coffee pot for your bedroom/bath. It’s nice not to have to leave your bedroom just to get a cup of chamomile.
  • Before you ever get out of bed, come up with three things you’re thankful for–the cardinal that just flew by, a perfect pillow, the fact that you can lie still with not one ache or pain are something to be grateful for.
  • Keep that door shut in the morning. If you like TV, move one into your bedroom, or better yet, go for some music. Music lifts the spirits almost in an instant.
  • Take the time to fully dress. Brush your hair, put on your shoes, and dress in real clothes before you ever leave your room. This take charge attitude will set you up for a good day.
  • Make that bed! Why? So you can leave your door open and see that beautiful room that’s waiting for you at the end of the day. Go outside and pick some greenery and put it in your room. Bringing the outside in is healing.
  • Keep a journal. Pour your worries, your fears, and even your sweetest memories onto the page. You’ll feel lighter knowing it’s kept in a safe place.
  • Say your prayers.  Talk like your gushing to your best friend (because you are). Ask for a good day. Ask for patience. Ask for strength.
  • If your day goes south–you lose your temper, you hit a roadblock–take a break and go to your room. Shut the door and find a cozy place to sit. Return to what soothes you–vent in your journal, light a candle, say a prayer, strip off your clothes and take a cool shower to calm down.
  • Look forward to returning to your room at the end of the day. Imagine that gorgeous color on your walls, your made bed, your journal waiting for you, the music in your CD or iPod player. Imagine yourself walking back in that room, slipping out of your shoes, and letting it all go….

Soon, your mind will comprehend that your bedroom is a “safe place” you can always return to find your center again. These daily morning rituals can literally save your life. They can be your port in your crazy-caregiving storm.

~Carol O’Dell, Author Mothering Mother

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I spoke at Haven Hospice in Gainesville, Florida yesterday–and the speaker before me was Dr. Slayton who is also a caregiver to his 87 year old father. He spoke of the “Out of Town Hero Syndrome.”

Everyone knew what that was–it’s when out of town relatives swoop in town and begin to tell YOU how to care give.

They come once or twice a year (thank goodness, not more) and rearrange everything from your medicine cabinet to your car’s glove compartment while proceeding to tell you (in subtle and not so subtle back stabs) how you could, should give better care–to mom or dad.

You’re there 365 days a year. They’re there for 10.

You’re nice at first. Keep peace, you tell yourself…but by day three you’re about to blow a gasket.

If your loved one has to go to the doctor or is in the hospital or in hospice and it’s near the end–then it’s ten times worse. They run the show. The doctors and nurses speak to them. Especially if they’re an older sibling–then you’re really in for it.

By the time they leave you can barely find your own socks.

You’re angry, frustrated–and worse–your confidence has been undermined.

You start to doubt yourself.

You just want to quit. Fine then–take mom–take dad.

“Do it all yourself and I’ll come back this time next year and boss YOU around for ten days.”

That’s what you’d like to say.

On top of that–your mom or dad like them MORE.

They get the smiles, holding hands, pleasantries you haven’t seen in months–they sit at the table and gab like you do this every night and you feel like such a hypocrite. They’re all in the livingroom talking after dinner–and where are you?

Loading the dishwasher.

I didn’t have siblings, but I experienced this with several relatives who came into see mom–twice–once each in more than two years.

I went off for the day to give them time alone and when I had come home this person (no names) had reorganized my pantry and all my kitchen cabinets. She took me in there by the hand and showed me everything she had done and explained why her system should work better. I had to stand there like a ten year old in trouble and agree, yes, her system was better and I was a piece of …well, you know.

I was so stressed, angry and nervous by the time she left I thought I’d collapse in a heap on the floor when she pulled out of the driveway. On top of that, I knew my mother had complained her head off about me–not taking her to church, drinking wine (my mother was a fundamentalist minister), watching movies with curse words, letting my daughters wear those short shorts…you name it.

The next time this happened was with a good friend of mine. My mother ate her up like she was homemade vanilla ice cream. They chatted and laughed–my friend washed my mother’s hair and did her nails.

Made me sick.

I had asked my friend to come down to help me and this felt like betrayal. I know she didn’t mean to but that’s how it felt.

I felt judged–and poorly lacking.

Mother hadn’t said a kind word to me in weeks and now she was a geyser of compliments.

Then I heard them whispering. Mother was crying (fake crying) and saying she wished I were sweeter, kinder, more patient, that she didn’t know what she had done to make me act so cold to her.

My friend came out and a very concerned voice told me I needed to make up with my mother and forgive her.

I thought my head would split open. I felt betrayed by everyone.

Mother was up to her old manipulation tricks–and I knew this full well having experienced it countless time in forty years.

I told my friend she really had no idea what was really going on here and that I needed her to respect and trust me.

Later, she apologized. Her father got Alzheimer’s and she dealt with her own family issues. She really didn’t have anything to apologize for. I knew how mother had played her, but I understood.

I share all this with you to say this about relatives in town or out who make you question yourself:

Know deep inside you are a good person–a good daughter, son, spouse–and let no one shake you on this

Stop worrying about what other people think about you and your caregiving.

It’s none of your business what others think of you. (How freeing is that?!?)

You’re care giving because you believe it’s the right thing to do. You have to give care the way you can–the way you can be consistent, they way that’s right for you and your loved one.

Stand firm on this and don’t listen to other’s opinions. 

Unless they have done this for as long as you have, they can’t possibly comprehend the level of sacrifice, committment, love, tenacity, and exhaustion you’ve endured. Caregiving is a marathon not a sprint.

You may feel yourself pulling away from people.

That’s part of caregiving.

You’ll naturally pull in–for good and not so good reasons.

You’ll get tired of explaining yourself.

You’ll get tired of trying to be nice to people.

You’ll get tired of feeling that everything you do is up for scrutiny.

You’ll get strong and stop needing others to validate you or what you’re doing.

That’s the bottom line.

Your relatives, friends and neighbors will intimidate you just so far and then you’ll find your backbone and stand your ground.

This is one of the best lessons of caregiving that can change you and how you deal with others for the rest of your life.

You will become strong, independent, and do what you need to do and you won’t give a rip what others think. They have no idea.

The anger and hurt will dissapte. In time.

These situations and people that threaten you will give you a gift–you’ll find your own confidence.

You’ll be in your own quiet center.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Kunati Publishing, www.kunati.com/caroldodell

Family Advisor on www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog on www.OpentoHope.com

 

 

 

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Do you wonder sometimes why your life has turned out like it has?

Why does one parent need you right now?

Why you’re caregiving dad–not mom–or vice versa?

The obvious reason is dad or mom is still here and needs care.

That’s the obvious reason, but not the only one.

It’s no coincidence.

It has a lot to do with what you need to learn. What lessons have come your way.

Where you are and what you’re doing is important and significant not only to you, but how your experience ripples out and touches others.

Some have pleasant, easy caregiving experiences. Not too many.

Relationships are complicated, and even when they’re not, caring for another life can be exhausting, frustrating and challenging because there are so many aspects to it–physically, financially, dealing with the medical community and other family members–it’s about as pleasant as licking a porcupine!

I also wonder about those people–with nice parents. Nice spouses. I feel as if I’m studying an ailien species that breathe in water. How do they do that? I ask myself.

I had to ask myself why my dad passed fifteen years before my mom. He died of heart disease and had  struggled with it for about a decade–he’d had a valve replacement, several veins replaced, he lived on nitro-glycerin tablets, and in the end his heart simply wore out. I was relieved for him to pass knowing he was out of pain and not struggling for every breath. He held on for my mother. She asked him to and he did. For as long as he could.

Dads can be stubborn, cantankerous, strong (headed and bodied), non-communicative, cold, (maybe less affectionate, or shows it in differnt ways), proud, demanding, opinionated, and controlling.

Not all dads. Just some. Caring can be a real challenge. And some of those challenges are inherent to the fact that you’re dealing with testosterone.

Men are proud critters. They’ve always been the one to help others. They’ve provided for a family, fought in a war, held a job down for 30+years–and now you, their child, is going to tell them what to do???

I can understand that it may take a bit of an adjustment period.

The list may sound stereotypical, but I believe many of those traits are more personality than gender based. Stubborn? Cantakerous? Demanding? Opinionated? My mom staked her claim to all of these. But there’s a male version that adds a whole other level of independence and stubborness to this scenario.

Dads can also push our buttons. A lot of history runs between dads and their kids. Hurts, frustrations, wanting to please your dad, obey your dad, honor your dad–how do you do that and still change his diaper? It’s tough.

Let’s be fair here. Not all dads were Ward Cleavers. We adults have to deal with the disappointments and hurts from childhoods and teenhoods that maybe have been marred by absentee dads, alcoholic dads, angry or distant dads–and now, we have to care give and act like one happy family?

That’s another post, but know that you can find a way to take care of you–and provide the care they need.

Sometimes dads are difficult to care for because of all the things they won’t let you do.

Not just you, but anyone. Pride again. They don’t know how to stop being that person they were for so long.

How do you reach your dad? Especially if you have a hard time (either of you or both) talking about things of the heart?

  • Be patient
  • Let them have their way on things that don’t really matter
  • Honor them. Treat them with dignity. “Brag” about who he is, and all he’s done when you’re out in public or when people come over
  • Focus on how proud you are of him as a person–not just a list of things he did. It’s hard for him to reconcile himself to not being able to be that strong, tough guy he used to be. Focus on inner qualities of patience, humor, kindness, wisdom–things he still possesses
  • Choose to focus on the good times, the good in him–and in you. Let go of the “you weren’t there for me” moments of your life
  • Pay attention to anything that interests him–birds, politics, how to cook perfect scrambled eggs, vintage cars–find ways to connect
  • Smile. Do something they like–pull out the sports page, buy him a car magazine.
  • Be easy. Let go of your own fussiness and let the time just flow.
  • Before long, you’ll see a softening in him–less combative–and if you can get just one small acknowledgement in a week, then you know you’ve broken through.
  • Ignore the bluster. If he’s fussy, demanding, opinionated, even angry–ignore it. Do the care you need to do–take him to the doctor, give him his bath or meds and just let him gripe while you keep doing “your job.” Griping is one way of handling the embarrassment–a way to distract him and you from the task at hand

***

This Father’s Day, if you don’t have a great relationship with you dad, then focus in one thing to be thankful for. Write it down on an index card and put it in your pocket of what you’re wearing that day. If things get off course, pull that out and focus on what you’re grateful for.

Why you’re caregiving your dad and not your mom may be a mystery to you–right now. But I bet in time, you’ll see why.

I know that I had a soft spot for my dad–and it would have been easier for me to be kinder, more patient with my dad–I’m a Daddy’s girl. But it wouldn’t have been good for him. He was in pain. He needed to pass on to the other side. Perhaps my caregiving would him would be hard on him. I was his little girl.

But I believe the biggest reason why I had to care for my mom is that I still have lessons to learn from her–how to be a wife, a mother, how to become an older woman, how to die. I also needed to learn how to stand up for myself. I still had some forgiving to do. I still had some letting go to do. I needed to know that I had the strength and tenacity to see it through–to make plans about my own integrity and personhood based off what she had to teach me.

Caregiving is a two-way street. Each have something to gain. Each have something to learn.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon, Kunti Publishers, www.Kunati.com

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

 

 

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My Daddy died at the average age men die in the US (78 years old), from the most common disease men die from–heart disease. Yet, Daddy was anything but typical. He was a big teddy bear of a guy who made my world right again.

I was adopted at the age of four. My early years weren’t easy.

My birth mother suffered from schizophrenia (severely and eventually permanently hospitalized), and addiction to alcohol and gambling choked all the life out of my birth father. My sister and I lived with my father’s co-dependent/enabler grandmother and was abused by a boarder who lived in her house.

Not a great beginning.

I don’t share this with you to make you uncomfortable or to get sympathy points because my life didn’t stay that way. I was adopted and received layer after layer of personal healing and insights that allow me to incorporate this experience into my being.

Healing took a long, long time.

My adoptive Daddy was a big part of that. He was 54 and Mama was 50 when they adopted me. That’s taking a big chance–but it also shows what a void they had to fill.

He died when I was 23 years old. Too young for him to die–and too young for me. But he isn’t really gone.

He has become a part of me now–his songs, his stories, his gestures, his wisdom–I carry him every day.

I see him just like I did when I was six and playing baseball in the backyard–he was my “seated” lawn chair pitcher. I broke his garage window. Don’t know that he got too upset.

I remember the summer we had  a contest and ate 38 watermelons. He told me vines were going to shoot out my ears. I hoped they would. Every time my nose tickled, or I hiccuped, I got excited.

I remember when I was 12 and just starting to like boys–Daddy drove me to the skating rink each Saturday night and picked me up at 11:00. I know he really didn’t want to get dressed and traipse out that late, but he did. I remember when he asked me if that boy kissed me. I lied and said, “No, Daddy.” He knew. I knew. But I couldn’t say the words–not to my dad.

I remember when I brought home countless boyfriends and the disgusting look he’d hide behind his newspaper. No one was ever good enough for his little sweety-pie.

Eventually, one was, and I married him. He loves my dad as much as I do. That’s why we’re still married. He reminds me of that honorable man who changed my life and he’s the daddy to our three girls. His face lights up when his daughters just walk into the room. His face lights up when I walk into the room.

That’s why I keep him.

The power of a great dad changes a child’s life. And it keeps changing it. Even after our dads are no longer walking on this earth. Whispered wisdom, needed advice, family traditions and that sense of security never goes away.

I never got to be my dad’s caregiver the way I did with my mom. But I promised him we would take care of her. That promise got me through some rough times.

I hope you enjoy a short excerpt from my forthcoming book, SAID CHILD.

It’s about our night time ritual and coming home after church. (Being raised in church means I have many, many memories of life on the pew). Perhaps this excerpt will spark one of your own favorite memories.

The greatest thing we can do for our dads on Father’s Day is simply to remember.

Excerpt from SAID CHILD:

Daddy slid next to us after his usher and elder duties of collecting and counting the money were complete. We’d all squeeze into the pew making room and he’d have to pull on his coat a few times to get comfortable. He’d reach in his shirt pocket and in one continuous smooth move, a gold package of Butter Rum Life Savers appeared and the fleshy underbelly of my tongue salivated. I got one, he got one and he’d wink. Mama preferred peppermint. Peppermint reminded me of the nausea of backseat card rides.

I’d roll the butter rum disk around in my mouth and hold it vertical between my teeth, my tongue reading the raised letters as if in Braille. I’d lay my head against Daddy’s arm, recognizing the texture of his different suits, and then he’d put his arm around me and poke his finger in my ear. I brush it away and he’d smile without looking at me. I snuggled up waiting for my butter rum Life Saver to dissolve so I could get another one. As the preacher’s words droned on and on, I knew we’d never make it home in time to see the Sunday night Disney movie. We never did. Missing all my favorite TV shows was the worst part to me. I’d have to run a fever or throw-up to get to stay home.

Daddy covered my legs with his jacket and patted me until the sounds and lights muffled, dimming into soft shades of gold as I watched my eyelashes fold again and again, the world faded fuzzy, then black.

I barely remembered most of the car ride home on Sunday nights and Daddy would place me between the cool sheets long after I was too big to be carried, my lanky legs scraping the bed and the quilt slid in place. 

Daddy half-whispered, half-growled, “My baby done gone to sleep, Lord bless my little sweety-pie.”

He’d sing me to sleep and I’d always ask for Mr. Moon:  

Oh Mr. Moon, Moon, bright and shinin’ moon,

Oh won’t you please shine down on me.

For my life’s in danger and I’m scared to run,

There’s a man behind me with me with a big shot gun,

Oh Mr. Moon, Moon, bright and shinin’ moon, oh won’t you please shine down on me. Boom, boom, boom.

***

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

www.kunati.com, publishers

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Caregiving isn’t always sweet and sentimental. Caregiver relationships are as complicated as everybody else’s. What happens if you need to/are asked to care give someone who has hurt you deeply?

I met a woman at a book club once and her face revealed her suffering. She shared that her husband had late stage Parkinson’s and she was basically housebound and caring for him 24/7. She looked beyond exhausted.

She also shared that she probably should have left him years ago.

Sometimes we stay. For the kids. For the security. Because we were too chicken to leave. Now it’s too late. We need to finish what we started.

I understand. I’ve lived long enough and have been married long enough to understand how very complicated things get.

My “book club” lady shared she really didn’t love him any more. He had killed that long ago.

I didn’t ask, but many times relationships are mangled beyond repair.

Repeated infidelity. Addictions. Isolation and control. Verbal or physical abuse.

There are things we never tell anyone.

I’ve volunteered in shelters, counseled couples, and have found that the deepest hurts usually go unsaid.

***

So why do it? Why care give someone who you simply can’t love any more?

Why stay? You may only have a few years left yourself.

Each person has to figure that out for themselves.

Sometimes it’s not that black and white. Yes, there are hurts. And no, you don’t feel anything for that person, but you have your reasons. Maybe it’s in part how you need to see yourself.

So you stay.

How do you love someone who has hurt you?

Don’t try to make yourself love them.

Don’t feel guilty.

Don’t try to look noble.

Do what you can.

Choose a path of integrity.

Caregiving isn’t about the person who is ill, aged or infirmed. It’s about you.

Decide who you want to be, regardless of them.

Mentally and emotionally separate yourself. You’re still giving them good care.

Trust your good heart.

Practicing a faith can bring you deep comfort.

Know that forgiveness can be as basic as wishing them no harm.

Even if they’re still hateful, vindictive and cruel, if you choose to stay then it’s on your terms.

If you can, if you choose to, place them in a care facility. You’re still being responsible. You’re still watching out for them. You don’t have to humiliate yourself and continue to be demeaned. They chose their path. You choose yours.

Find your place of peace.

Detach when you need to. Methodical caregiving can still be good caregiving.

Begin to nurture yourself. Your dreams. Reward yourself for what you’ve chosen to do if you believe it’s the right thing to do.

Duty. Responsibility. Integrity. These are important words our culture has all but forgotten.

Choose a higher path.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

www.mothering-mother.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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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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