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Archive for the ‘teenagers’ Category

Are you in your 60s or 70s and caring for your parents?

Are you in your 20s or 30s and caring for your parents of grandparents?

Either situation is not that unusual today in the realm of caregiving.

I had the dilemma of being relatively young and having older parents to take care of–I was adopted and my mother was exactly 50 years older than I am.  

My dad died at 78 and I grew up in a house where doctor visits and hospital stays were common–Daddy had back surgery, intestinal surgery and heart surgery (several) all while I was a child. I never remember there not being pills to hand Daddy.  I remember singing in the hospital stairwells for hours as my pre-teen voice belted out Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond hits that echoed down ten flights of stairs.

I was a caregiver kid.

As much as I spend time sharing about caregiving and my mother who had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, it was my dad’s passing that hit me the hardest. I was 24 (Daddy was 54 years older than me, my mom, 50). I adored him. He called me his little sweety-pie and we had one of those special bonds that went beyond words.  I grieved his passing immensely and yet feel that he will always be with me.

Then, I became my mother’s sole caregiver.

Her 70s and early 80s were pretty good even though she developed Parkinson’s. I went to her house a couple of times a week and did things she couldn’t do by herself–my husband kept her gutters clean, did man chores. She enjoyed church and friends, and then the issues started: driving, the falls, the forgetfulness, the financial mismanagement, the paranoia of being robbed. I now see that while some of these fears and issues are normal, hers were exasperated by the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Her late 80s were not as easy as dementia/Alzheimer’s set in and Parkinson’s began to take its cruel and twisted toll.

I became her full-time caregiver and eventually had to move her into my home while I was still in my 30s and raising kids. I wanted to, not that I knew what I was getting myself into, but by that time I loved her even more and knew she needed me.
This isn’t so unusual with people marrying and having kids later, so many sandwich generationers will face this age factor–and I know of so many wonderful granddaughter’s and grandson’s caring for their grandparents. They’re from divorced or dysfunctional families and their grandparents represent family and stability they didn’t have any other way.
The other scenario is the situation I will eventually face–I was in my 20s when I started having kids, so when I’m in my 90s, my kids will be in their 70s.

Will they be able to care for me?

Do we saddle the grandkids with two generations to care for?
Family care is still the best form of care (most times) because of the love, loyalty and commitment, but it has to be supplemented with lots of community and state resources both financially and in the form of adult day cares, home health care, and hospice. I also believe in the proper amounts, family caregiving is good for the family–it teach patience, sacrifice, commitment, integrity, and allows the generations to get to know each other on an intimate level that visiting a care home once a week for a couple of hours can never foster.

But what about the throngs of young adults who will choose not to get married or not have kids?
Nursing, psychology, sociology and anthropology classes will have to add a new chapter to their text book as society morphs and we face these new issues both individually and collectively.

~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/mothering

www.caring.com/familyadvisor

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I remember that day well. The day I knew I couldn’t keep on caregiving like I was–not full-time, 24/7, in our home.

It wasn’t about being exhausted to the bone, frustrated to the point I had gritted my teeth down to the nubs, or numb due to months of interrupted and little sleep.

It wasn’t about me. Or Alzheimer’s. Or the end stages of Parkinson’s.

My breaking point was about my daughter.

I wrote in Mothering Mother:

I didn’t expect it—not today—the day I would decide I couldn’t take care of Mother anymore. It’s not really about how hard it is to care for her, but then again, maybe it is.

I should have known that in the end the deciding factor would not be when I had had enough, but when my family had had enough.

Cherish, our youngest daughter is in the hospital. She has a severe kidney infection.

It started out with a backache that lasted for a couple of weeks, and then last night she came down with flu-like symptoms, only something was different about it. My mothering instinct kicked in, and I told Phillip I had to take her to the emergency room.

She was admitted, and for the first time, I found myself in the children’s wing of the hospital, the walls decorated with brightly colored tropical fish murals, and a friendly, concerned staff.

I spent day and night beside her, getting washcloths, holding back her hair and wondering how she had gotten so sick and I didn’t know it. I’ve spent every lucid moment taking care of my mother. My own child needed me and I didn’t pick up on it.

 

Cherish’s medications worked and we barely avoided surgery, but they told us one kidney was smaller than the other and we would have to continue to monitor the situation. She spent five days slowly improving. My mother-in-law flew in to take care of my mother, which was a godsend. 

On the day we were told we could leave, the doctor did a final exam. She asked Cherish, “Who’s your best friend?” and “What do you like to do for fun?”

Cherish’s answers were polite, but lacked enthusiasm. I wondered how I’d answer the same questions. Our life had become as bland and monotonous as a bowl of oatmeal.

The doctor asked what home was like and Cherish explained how her grandmother lived with us. She said it was hard. 

I sat there, stunned, not ever having fully realized the impact of Mother’s care on my children’s lives.

 

“Is your grandmother’s care too much for you or your mom?” the doctor asked and I felt sick inside. How did we get here? How did it ever come to this?

Cherish’s timid nod yes was followed with tears and quivering lips.

 

It all fell away. The illusion that we were all coping was over. I admitted to myself, perhaps for the first time, that this was too much.

 

I had no right to put my family through this. What had started our as love and loyalty had morphed into something unhealthy. I was no longer sure I was taking good care of anyone, including my mother.

I had to accept that my Mother’s bizarre behavior (Alzheimer’s) is no different than living with the mentally ill in practical terms. Its origin may be different, but no one would or should subject a child to this.

My children had endured a worn-out mother, a bickering, beligerent grandmother who inflicts constant verbal attacks, and the loss of the freedom just to be a teenager. This child had taken the brunt.

Everything I’ve believed in is on shaky ground.

 

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now. I just know I can’t keep doing this.

I’ve been home a few days from the hospital; I pick up Mother’s wallet, get out her insurance card and dial the number. Within fifteen minutes I’m talking to someone who suggests possibilities.

Why haven’t I thought of this before?  What keeps me locked in the I-have-to-do-this mind-set?  Guilt?  Loyalty?  A promise Mother asked of a child?

I no longer feel obligated to do this no matter what. The no matter what is my family. I’ve done the best I can.

 

After hours hours and hours over the last several days on the phone—time I don’t have to waste—and I’m back to nowhere. The cost for nursing care is astronomical. Mother’s conditions are not considered a “skilled-nurse necessity” and therefore Mother’s insurance doesn’t cover her. I’m stuck between paying out thousands a month for who knows how long, or piecing the care together as I’ve been doing while carrying the main load myself. So much for help.

 I basically spent a week fooling myself, thinking that I could find Mother decent care without bankrupting us. So far, I haven’t found it. Mother’s been with us twenty months and I’ve done all that I know to do. It feels like it’s time to let go, but I don’t know where to turn.

*****

I don’t know if you’re at your breaking point.

If you’re not, you may be one day.

It will be about your own family dynamics, or perhaps your marriage or your health. Most disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, ALS, all offer ring side seats to a very long and heartbreaking situation.

I wish I didn’t have to share this with you.

I wish I could clean it up and offer you something cool to drink.

I wish we didn’t have to talk about this, and yes, your loved one might slip out quietly and peacefully in the middle of the night. I wish, pray, and hope that for you.

 

But I’d rather share my story, offer a few insights, and reassure you that while yes, it will be really, really hard–you will make it.

My story doesn’t end here. My daughter is healthy today. We’ve managed to avoid surgery a few more times.

My mother’s passing was at home and peaceful, but it was slow, and I have to tell you these things because who else but a fellow caregiver will be this candid?

 

Sandwich generation-ers aren’t people just under a catchy umbrella. Their concerns aren’t just how to get little Jimmy to soccer practice–many of them face gut-wrenching choices.

I can also tell you that I believe my children are grateful for the experience of living with my mother, and while aspects of it were really hard, they gleaned a lot, learned a lot about themselves and what it means to be a family.

Did I pray? Turn to God for help? I think I did, although I was in full crisis mode, and I didn’t have the sense to make a formal plea. Nor do I think we need to. A desperate prayer occurs instantly.

Did I have faith? I’m not sure I had much of anything, and I can’t see a divine loving being holding that against a worn-out caregiver. We think we have to jump through hoops–do it right, say it right. I don’t think so. I’m just grateful our lungs are on auto-pilot because in times of great stress, I’m sure I’d forget to breath in and out.

Did I let some things go on too long? Should I have done some things differently? Perhaps. I’m not one to wallow in regrets. I accept what was and learn from it.

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, The foresight to know where you are going, And the insight to know when you have gone too far

An Irish Blessing

Where are you? Does this post hit you hard and deep? Does it scare you? Infuriate you? What is it that shakes you to your core?

If you’re at your breaking point, my advice is to go ahead and break. Let it fall apart. You’ve done all you can. You’ve loved, and given, and worked, and hoped, and now it’s time to let go. Trust. Trust something will happen, something or someone will help.

Call someone. Alzheimer’s (www.alz.org) has a toll free number. Call–pour your heart out. Ask for help. Tell others that this is it. You can’t do any more.

Trust that help will come.

~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

 

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The latest stats released by the Alzheimer’s Association paint a grim picture.

USA Today reported that ten million are expected to get Alzheimer’s over the next 2 decades.

Most boomers I know are a bit stunned. 1 in 8 will get Alzheimer’s.

I started bunching people I know in eights. Terrible, I know.

My husband has 8 siblings. Which one?

I mentally grouped my friends and imagined myself visiting them, trying to rouse the remnants of our relationship.

It was so much easier in my imagination for it to be somebody else other than me!

I felt like those people in the Titanic lifeboats. The boat’s too heavy, who’s going to get the ole’ heave ho! We always kid about poor Leo’s icy fingers being pried off one by one. My husband says he can see me doing that. I tell him I’ll sing him a Celine Delion song and wave to him as he sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic. Just kidding.

I walked around for days living too far into the future, speculating too much about whether or not I’d be the one in eight.

Then, I remembered the quote:

“To tell a man his future is to condemn him to one.”

That’s kind of what this news did. Maybe it didn’t mean to.

I assume their reasons for imparting this knowledge was to spar research, educate the masses, but I wonder if they know what they’ve done?

It doesn’t take long for the rebellious inner child to stand up and yell, “Hell no!” I’m not going without a fight.

I’ve already seen Alzheimer’s up close and personal with my mom. She had Parkinson’s for 15 years and Alzheimer’s for at least the last three years of her life. That’s when I brought her into my home, so I know how brutal it can get. What I’m not willing to face is a two, three, four decade old bully poking at me, taunting me, telling me over and over he’s gonna get me in the end.

Are you worried about getting Alzheimer’s too?

One thing I’ve done is to go ahead and play my own devil’s advocate.

So what if I get it? What will life be like?

Many scenarios here: I could be mean and belligerent. Doesn’t sound half bad, I’m kind of tired of being nice all the time.

If I just had one day where I told people what I really think…

It could be scary. That’s what I don’t want. To be on the edge. Nervous, agitated, restless to no end. Paranoid. Angry beyond consoling. To that, I say, drug me. Drug me in a stupor if you have to. By then, I promise you, I’ll have had a good life, and if it’s too awful for me or for you, then I give you permission to gork me out of my…mind. If the last couple of years are a throw away then so be it. If it’s painful to watch, then don’t.

Go live a big, bold, purpose-filled life. That’s the best way I can think of being honored.

I’ve told this to my husband and my girls and it’s going in the “important drawer.”

If you love me, then do something meaningful with your life–in my honor, if it makes you feel better.

But, if I’m just in la-la land, rambling around in the past, and I’m rather amiable, then let me enjoy it.

Don’t remind me who’s dead or that I’m nearly there myself. I don’t expect you to play along and mess up the delicate balance of reality you’ve scrambled for–just make me comfortable. If I think I’m sixteen, or twenty four, or forty-four, then let me enjoy it.

I learned the hard way with my mom that most people fear Alzheimer’s (both as caregivers and for themselves) because they can’t control it. It scares them, rattles their nerves. Their loved one acting “not like themselves,” angry, sexually explicit, fussy, playing in feces–it unnerves people. Is it really all that bad? My brain went kaflooey. It’s not a reflection of the kind of person I chose to be–we are in fact, what we choose. It’s not a reflection of our relationship or of you. It just happens.

Brains go haywire and you can’t control it any more than you can control your dreams, your nightmares, and all those random blips that you dare never admit or mention to anybody. It’s just random electrical spasms of disconnected thoughts and of all the other thoughts you’ve suppressed. We all have it inside us, don’t kid yourself. We have to eventually make peace with our humanity, and our lack of humanity.

We have to make peace with this base self, animalistic, driven, insatiable self.

This isn’t even the bad part.

Alzheimer’s does a lot more to the body and mind than simply making a person different or moody or playing in their poop. You think that’s your biggest hurdle at the time, it’s not.

The forgetting grows like a fertilized weed and it begins to invade a different part of the brain and a person’s life: recognizing not only those they love but even themselves and what it means to be here, recognizing objects like what to do with a spoon, what to do with the food someone placed in your mouth, or when your body forgets to take its next breath.

 That’s when you wish for your fiesty loved one to return to you–memory intact or not. We have to come to terms with this too, and this is much harder and deeper. This is when chaos collapses in on itself. This is when as a loved one, you get quiet. You stop talking about it all, complaining. You’ve shed so many tears you don’t have any left. 

This is Alzheimer’s.

I kidded with my girls on Easter Sunday. I told them if I have mild dementia or Alzheimer’s, that I want a dress-up box–with a fireman’s hat like I had as a child, and French beret (we always had a dress-up box when they were little) I want a boa, and lots of make up, and a yellow rain slicker and golashes. I want a cat, I’ve always had a kitty. I want paints and crafty things. I want my room filled with Van Goghs. I want to work in a garden. I want to dance. A lot. I want loud music and me in my boa and fireman hat clutching a bouquet of forget-me-nots and a kitty in a windowsill looking thoroughly disgusted with it all.

We laughed. They said they would. Then they argued as to who would get me. They said they all took their turns with Nanny (my mother). I told them if I had known that would do them in, (trust me, I was the primary caregiver, not them), then I’d have let her fend for herself (joke, we’re quite a facetious bunch).

Each of my daughters have their attributes. At my youngest daughter’s house, I’ll be a fashionista–coach purses and Italian scarves. She promised me we’d make tents in the living room out of sheets and blankets.

At my middle daughter’s house, she’ll clean out my ears and under my nails. My clothes will be folded neatly–neater than they’ve ever been folded. We’ll color a lot there, and I’ll finally be on time wherever she takes me.

My oldest daughter will feed me anything I want. She’s a candy-aholic. We’ll stay in our pjs and watch movies, and she will kick butt with doctors, let me tell you.

While all this is “play talk,” it’s a good way for families to start easing into the more serious conversations.

I do this on purpose. To open the doors. To make everything not seem so ominous.

We all have living wills. We kid about what we want, but we also have the serious stuff in writing–about sustaining life, feeding tubes, and issues no person should have to make for another.

Am I worried about getting Alzheimer’s? Sure, but I fight it.

Are you? It’s only natural, but I hope you find your own ways to work through some of the fears.

I hope you turn the light on the bully monster in the closet and let him know you don’t plan on being intimidated for the rest of your life.

As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, I know what to do to prevent it as best I can–but life’s still a crap shoot.

I think I’m better off concentrating on having some big adventures, some wild tales and daring feats.

If I’m going to eventually forget everything, I plan on having a lot to forget.

~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

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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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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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Ever heard of the freshman 15?

That’s where kids heading off to college gain 15 pounds because they’re eating pizza, drinking beer, and stressed out?

Well, I’m here to tell ya there’s a Caregiver’s 30!

I gained over 30 pounds in the almost three years I cared for my mom full time. You would think lifting and helping something with Parkinson’s, and chasing after someone with Alzheimer’s (she had both) would be enough exercise.

Why? Stress, #1–that whole cortisol thing

Lack of sleep, #2

One for you, two for me, #3

Here’s why stress causes weight gain:

Chronic stress and cortisol can contribute to weight gain in the following ways:

    Metabolism —  Too much cortisol can slow your metabolism, causing more weight gain than you would normally experience.Cravings — People experiencing chronic stress tend to crave more fatty, salty and sugary foods. This includes sweets, processed food and other things that aren’t as good for you. 

    Blood Sugar — Prolonged stress can alter your blood sugar levels, causing mood swings, fatigue, and conditions like hyperglycemia. Too much stress has even been linked to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health concerns that can lead to greater health problems, like heart attacks and diabetes.

    Fat Storage — Excessive stress even affects where we tend to store fat. Higher levels of stress are linked to greater levels of abdominal fat. Unfortunately, abdominal fat isn’t attractive, it’s linked with greater health risks than fat stored in other areas of the body. This info is from http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/weightgain.htm

Mother’s eating habits became atrocious, although I have to preface that with if you’re in your twilight years you should be allowed to finally eat anything you darn well please. The only problem was that I’m not in my twilight years.

As I unwrapped her a Klondike bar, I might eat one myself.

When she wanted peanut butter and crackers for a snack, I ate them as well.

When she woke in the middle of the night, I too, had to get up–and then I couldn’t sleep, so…a handful of Cheese-Its and a glass of milk.

Add the fact that I’m a sandwich generationer with kids still at home. I had teenagers into the mix, and the pantry always had chips or crackers or something naughty. And it was my saving grace to order pizza or wings after a particularly stressful day.

You can see? It adds up.

It didn’t feel like I was eating a lot, but I don’t think it was just the food, it was the stress and the kinds of foods I was eating.

I know food is comforting. I know the boredom, the hankering for something to just hit the spot, the problem was, my back end was spreading, and that made me feel miserable.

Also…I stopped getting on the scale. I ignored the solution. I didn’t want to face it. I told myself I had enough on my plate (pun intended)–that I’d deal with it later.

I’m grateful diabetes didn’t kick in, and I’m grateful it was 30+ pounds, not 60, but if I had to do it again,

I’d pay attention to me–first.

My mother passed away at the age of 92. A good long life. For the most part, she took good care of her health, and still, she wound up with two debilitating diseases. It took almost a year to drop my “caregiver spread” and I’m grateful I had the momentum and ability to do so. It wasn’t easy. Paying attention to your health is something we simply have to incorporate into our very core. We especially need it in our caregiving years.

~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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