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Archive for the ‘retirement’ Category

It’s not what you think. Caregivers don’t dread the work, giving up aspects of their lives, or even the inevitable moment of death that’s to come.

I recently spoke at a caregiving event (sponsored by my friends at Community Hospice of North Florida) and I asked caregivers what they feared…and a quiet, thoughtful gentleman shared:

“I fear that something will happen to me and I won’t be able to continue to care for my wife.”

That’s one of the biggest fears–that our loved ones won’t be cared for.

I’m sure it’s different for each person, but there are a few fears that most caregivers have in common.

What’s your biggest caregiving fear?

By asking yourself this question, you can then face it and then begin to explore solutions.

I knew the second this gentleman said it, that it’s a big fear, especially for those caring for spouses. 

And yet, most caregivers don’t take proper care of themselves. They put off their own doctor appointments, forget their own medications, and go dangerously  low on sleep and rest. Most caregivers are generous, kind-hearted, and conscientious–with others, but forget to give themselves the same respect and attention.

Spouses worry about their ability to care for their husband or wife more than any other group. They’re typically close to the same age, which means they probably have health issues of their own. They want to keep their partner at home, with them, and make sure that every need, every inkling of a desire is met–but they can’t if they’re not here.

Adult children, sons, daughters, and other family caregivers fear burning out, giving up, or the onset of some disability/illness that will cause them to be unable to stand up to the unrelenting workload and emotional load that comes with caring for others.

Caregiver stress is a real problem in the care community and that concern takes on a physical manifestation in the form of heart disease, cancer, depression, or arthritis.

Caregiver Fears:

  • What if I die before my loved one? Who will care for them?
  • What if my back goes out?
  • What if I have a stroke or my cancer comes back?
  • What if I can no longer lift or move my loved one?
  • What if I lose my temperand do something I’ll regret? 
  • What if my depression gets worse?  
  •  What if I start forgetting important things like medication or if I left the stove on? 

The bad thing about fear is that it’s paralyzing.

We don’t run or yell or scream like we should (Ever watch a horror movie? The girl just cowers in fear). That’s our first reaction, but then we need to realize we’re in the grips of fear and make a plan–face the fear and decide our course of action.

My gentleman was still reeling from admitting his deepest fear, so it was important to give him the time and space to process his revelation. I asked him, and other audience members if they had a plan–a back up plan, and then I led him to some community resources who could help him figure out what would be “Plan B.”

Ask yourself: What can I do to give myself a sense of peace that my loved one will continue to be cared for?

Do you need to change your will? Ask someone to be his/her guardian and care advocate? Check into care facilities or purchase long-term care insurance? There are no easy answers, but doing something is better than doing nothing. Start small. Make a call. Ask someone.

My gentleman friend needed to know he had choices–agencies such as the Council on Aging, Urban Jax (in our area) and the Alzheimer’s Association who could help now, offer respite, home health care assitance–and later, he needed to consider small care home, memory disorder care home nearby (his wife had Alzeimer’s), information on Medicare.

By the end of the day, he said he felt better. He needed to face it, to say it out loud. He went home with the beginnings of a plan.

We tend to fear the unknown, and in the “caregiving world,” there are lots of unknowns. We turn our fears into monsters and we hide, deny, and ignore in order not to look at them. Their shadows loom above us, but when we turn on the light, admit our deepest fears and take a look around, we realize  we’re not alone.

The best way to defeat a monster is with the help of a few friends.

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Move over, Michelle Obama, cause Mama’s in the house.

That’s right, Michelle Obama’s mother is moving into the White House.

Marian Robinson quit her job 22 months ago to help care for the Obama girls while Michelle and Barack started campaigning. She’s now 71 and a retired secretary and she’s moving into the White House on a “trial basis” before giving up her home in Chicago. While the presidential campaign was underway, Ms. Robinson cooked the girl’s meals, shuffled them to their various activities, helped with homework and kissed them goodnight. That’s a big job, but it was for a big reason.

That’s something I admire–a family that figures out how to care for one another and when it’s the appropriate time to do so. I’m not too worried how she’ll be treated a few years from now when she needs elder-care or caregiving. She’s invested in her family, and love is almost always returned.

The White House will be full again, with a father, mother, two children, a grandmother, and a dog. I like the idea of those old rooms bustling with the sound of feet running up and down the halls, of a grandmother’s stern call to order and the yelp of a dog.

Multigenerational families aren’t new. People used to live together under one roof out of necessity–to run the farm, to continue the family business. In fact, it’s on the rise.

More than 3.6 million parents lived with adult children in 2007, according to census data. That number is up 67 percent from 2000. And in the new economic light, more and more families are choosing to “bunk up” to save on expenses, and as a necessity for those who have lost their jobs.

Somehow, we got away from that in my generation. We got independent, perhaps too independent thinking that money would be enough–or as my southern daddy would say, “We got too big for our britches.”

My adoptive mother grew up in a multigenerational house. She was surrounded by aunts and uncles (her mother was divorced and raising two children on her own in the 1910’s). My mother’s memories are good ones. A large table with lots of food and conversation. She said she felt as if she had many mothers, not just one–and it helped that her mother could work full time and her two children had someone at home.

Times haven’t changed that much. Marian Robinson is an example of millions of grandmother’s who are either raising or helping to raise grandchildren. We need each other. We need our mothers and fathers to be a part of their grandchidren’s lives. That’s how values and stories get passed down.

From all I’ve read, Marian Robinson is going to be a busy woman. She’s noted for her independence and will only stay if she’s needed. She may even purchase a home nearby just so she has some privacy and doesn’t have to deal with the day to day fuss life in politics entails. She’s no where near slowing down and has recentlycompeted in the Senior Games running the 50 and 100 yard dash. No matter where she chooses to sleep, she’ll be an active part of the Obama household and everyone will benefit from that.

It’s not that her value as a grandmother is in throwing in a load of laundry or chauffeuring the girls around, it’s that the children will be influenced by her wisdom and will have that sense of family and continuity that’s so important. It’s easy to caught up in the “doing” and not the “being.”  The most valuable gift our elders have to offer is simply who they are–a part of us. Their life, their experiences, their stories shape and define future generations.

I have seen families take advantage of their elders–used them as free babysitters–and that’s not healthy for anyone. Sometimes we have to say, “No, not tonight, I have plans.”

As my mother moved in with my husband, our daughters and myself, I knew I had to strike a balance. My mother had to fit into our home, and in return, I (we) needed to treat her with respect and privacy. These are the concerns multigenerational families face. You don’t know exactly what your issues are going to be until you’re there, all living together. One person becomes needy, another bossy–someone needs more privacy than another, and…somebody always gets jealous. It’s just human nature and no matter how old we are, we still get jealous or needy at times.

My mother was always a part of our lives, and I’m so grateful that even though she was an older grandmother (she was 74 when her first granddaughter was born), she got right to being an active grandmother. She used to come over and get our girls and take them for an overnight stay as soon as they were out of diapers. They remember going to eat breakfast at Shoney’s with my mom and how proud she was showing them off to anyone who walked by, and then going to K Mart to hold the dolls. She’d buy them something small and even though these times weren’t fancy, they were just enough to begin to build a relationship–and memories. Our daughters remember my mother’s songs, her prayers and Bible stories, her stories–and even her quirks, her humor, her fears–everything that made her a whole person. So when it came time for my mother to move in with us, they expected it. In many ways, she was already a part of our lives.

Just the other day, our 21 year old daughter said she was glad her grandmother lived with us. That’s saying a lot, because she was there through it all, the Alzheimer’s, the heart attacks, and the end of life. She’s now able to measure the whole of the experience and not just focus on a particularly dark time.

What I wish for the Obama’s is that everyone will be patient and understanding with one another during this time of change. My advice, if I may offer a little–be quick to forgive, laugh at your mistakes, value your togetherness, and respect each other’s differences.

Getting used to living together and under such scrutiny is bound to cause some nerves to be razzled. Just as with any family, it takes time to learn to live together. But it’s worth it. There are times when we need each other, and that’s the best definition of what makes a family that I can think of.

In the end, the Obama girls will be surrounded by family, by legacy, and by love.

I wish them (and all of us) the best.

~Carol O’Dell, author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

Familly advisor at Caring.com

 

 

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It’s the simple things I miss about my mother.

Just two women shopping. Someone to be with. Someone who knows me better than I wanted her to.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

I’ll always miss you, and I’ll always carry you in my heart.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from my book, Mothering Mother:

When I Miss Her

I miss Mother when I go to the grocery store. Since I’m no longer eligible to park in the parking spaces for the handicapped, I must walk by the light blue and white lines as I head across the parking lot that no longer takes me ten minutes to cross. I see Mother grip the handle of the grocery cart and remember the freedom this rolling walker gave her.

 

I still see her curved spine dipping, her stockings slowly sagging from above her knees and eventually bunching around her ankles. I see her silhouette, complete with a bright blue nylon cap and its hundreds of petal-shaped pieces that made her head look like a massive flower. Some people loved her hat, others made fun of it, snickered about it behind our backs, but there were a few who found her and her blue hat endearing.

 

I miss her as I pass by the bananas. She said they gave her potassium and ate one a day. I had to buy seven a week—not six, not eight—though I often cheated, hoping to tide her over a day or two. Sometimes I get the urge to eat one in case I, too, am low on potassium. Any fruit she ate had to be peeled, cored and washed until it practically no longer resembled anything that ever lived. Apples were pale and tinged brown, grapes looked naked and embarrassed without their skins.

 

I miss her when I pass the Little Debbie display. Her face would light up at the sound of me opening the cellophane wrapper of an oatmeal pie.

 

I miss not picking up her half gallon of milk, her apple juice and her frozen dinners. I knew which ones she liked—the meatloaf, beef tips and flounder, nothing with pasta, very little chicken. Ice-cream bars remind me of her dying, not living. I can’t bring myself to eat one, or even buy them anymore.

 

I miss her small talk with the cashier, the slightly condescending way she treated the help, and the times she surprised me with genuine kindness and humor. As time went on, she took forever to get out her wallet, and two forevers to pull out her credit cards. She could no longer differentiate a Visa card from a debit card, from a license. She’d just let them pick, holding the plastic squares out innocently like a hand of playing cards. I always tried to catch her before she let strangers rifle through her entire wallet and checkbook. By then, some of her prejudices had diminished and she chitchatted with anyone who caught her eye, regardless of race, which was a pleasant change, though unreliable. She insisted the baggers carry our groceries to the car, no matter how few we had, and she saw no need to tip them. I’d slip them a dollar or two after buckling her in. Tipping never was her thing.

 

Now I just go to the store like anyone else. No one to slow me down, no one to check on, no bananas to count, no Little Debbies to hide so she won’t eat them all in two days.

 

It’s just ordinary, and what once seemed a bother, is now missed.

 

~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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Caregivers and the folks they love and care for experience transition in rapid succession.

It’s a lot like when your child turned fifteen–they can drive with you in the car, and before you know it, they’re sixteen and begging to drive alone–you aren’t ready for this–or for the dating, curfews, part-time jobs, SAT preps, and BAM! They’re eighteen and headed off to college.
Only three years ago they were still your baby–gangly yes, but not living in a dorm, voting, and heaven forbid, fighting a war.

Our elders also go through rapid changes. One of the first transitions from simply having a senior/elder mom or dad or spouse or grandparent who is independent and enjoying their retirement to stepping over the threshold into your role as a caregiver is when you begin to look at “the driving issue.”

Maybe you’ve begun to question whether they should still drive so you drive behind them, monitor their turns and parking. Your doubts are confirmed and it’s time to have the first of many BIG talks.

I’d like to take a moment to let you know that as a caregiver, you’re simply going to have to take a big gulp and say and do things you’re not comfortable with.

Don’t be afraid for your parents/loved ones to

hate you.

What do I mean by that?

Back to the teen analogy: you as the “responsible” one have to do what’s right. Teens, (and sometimes our elders ) do not have a fully developed brain.

It’s true. Ask any neurologist/psychiatrist and they’ll tell you that the human brain isn’t fully formed until our early 20s (if then) and our “judgment seat” at the frontal lobe of the brain is one of the last to fully form. In reverse, our elders who suffer from certain diseases such as dementia, Parkinson’s,  Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders lose this ability.

Nothing like being a sandwich generationer and basically having “teens” on each side of you!

I know it’s your parent or your spouse or loved one–I know you love and honor them, but I also know that sometimes we feel like a five year-old when we’re around them. 

We’re conditioned to obey and respect our elders, but realize that making sure they’re safe drivers is respect! 

I know you don’t want to fight.

But some issues such as driving are much, much bigger than a fight.

What if this were brought into your life for you to practice bravery and take charge when needed? (That old law of attraction thing again)

The transition from driving to not driving is oftentimes the first a caregiver must prepare for, and I do mean prepare. It’s best to have this talk as a scenario that hasn’t occured yet.

“Dad–”
“What?”
“You know, you’re 85 and still driving, and I think that’s great, but let’s face it–one day, you will most likely not be safe behind the wheel.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“We have to.”
“No, we don’t.”
“Yes, Dad, we do. Hear me out. I love you. I want you to have your independence–I really do. I respect you immensely, and I love you and want you to be safe–and I don’t want you to hurt someone else.”
(silence)
“This is what I propose. I think we should do what I did with your grandson. I think you should consider driving only when someone else is in the car with you. That way, I can see how you’re doing–will you do that for me?”
(silence)
Take his hand. Be quiet for a minute. Change the subject. Enough for today. Go get an ice cream.

This is the first (big) conversation.

There will be many.

Dad (or Mom) has to get used to the idea that his life is changing. He has to transition out of the life he has–and it won’t be easy.

Let’s think about what our loved ones are feeling:

I’m still healthy and my driving is fine, what’s she talking about?
It’s my car. It’s paid for and I’m insured.
I only drive to the store and to church. I know my way in my sleep.
They just want my money.
Why don’t they take all the drunk drivers off the road first. They’re more of a menace than I am.
Once I give up driving, I’ll be her prisoner.

By putting ourselves in their situation, we see how painful having someone decide when you can no longer drive can be.

It’s best if they decide when it’s no longer wise to drive on their own, but in many cases, that’s just not going to happen. Their judgement is impaired. They fear losing their freedom. It’s teenage-hood in reverse!

What if Dad’s cantankerous and won’t stop driving even when it’s not safe?

We’ll talk about your options tomorrow.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

www.mothering-mother.com

http://www.kunati.com/mothering

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