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You don’t have to like your mother to love her.

Jess is a friend of mine. She’s in her mid-thirties, and like most young women she’s had a couple of decades of feeling like she had nothing whatsoever in common with her mother. Now, within the past few months I’ve noticed she talks about her mom differently.

Jess’s mother is flying in for her wedding shower and they’re going shopping all day at the outlet mall while she’s in town. She calls her mom several times a week as she’s driving home from work–just to chat. This wouldn’t have happened even three years ago.

Why the change?

The mother-daughter bond is resilient.

It’s not a warm, cuddly blanket, but a sinuous cord that connects us. At times, it’s the jet fuel we need to grow up and move on with our lives. We “use” our mothers. We hate them in order to love ourselves. We swear we will never be anything like them. We despise them when we don’t want to admit we despise ourselves. We lash out in words and actions knowing it cuts like a serrated knife. We think it will always be like this–us, way over here–them, way over there.

The resiliency of the mother-daughter relationship that grows stronger over time isn’t a surprise. Pennsylvania State University conducted a study of midlife daughters and their elderly mothers. Researcher Karen Fingerman, Ph.D., found that “despite conflicts and complicated emotions, the mother-daughter bond is so strong that 80 percent to 90 percent of women at midlife report good relationships with their mothers—though they wish it were better.”

Whodathought? After all those years of bickering, name calling, not calling at all…that we actually love each other underneath all that bravado. And…we actually want a better relationship with our mother! I never throught that day would come for me, but it did.

Suddenly, through birthing a daughter, a woman finds herself face to face not only with an infant, a little girl, a woman-to-be, but also with her own unresolved conflicts from the past and her hopes and dreams for the future…. As though experiencing an earthquake, mothers of daughters may find their lives shifted, their deep feelings unearthed, the balance struck in all relationships once again off kilter.

~Elizabeth Debold and Idelisse Malave

We need something to propel us into our own lives and identities and we push off of our mothers like they’re a springboard–the laws of physics at work in relationships. Our “you weren’t there for me’s,” and “why are you always so controlling” can take years to leave our systems. We stew in our own toxic venom.

Were they bad mothers? Perhaps. At times. But that doesn’t diminish their power or our need to have them in our lives. Even if for a few, our mothers are object lessons, they are still in our lives for a purpose.

Eventually, most of us learn to make at least a measure of peace with mothers–and mothers with their daughters. It’s not a conscience thing. It’s not an “I should.” It just is. It’s biological.

Mothers and daughters can fight, argue, cry, blame, and complain–and their bond gets stronger. You don’t even know it’s happening–you think you’re a million miles away. We can even ignore our mothers and go on with our busy adult lives, and that bond is still there. Genetics is one powerful pull.

I’ve seen it countless times–family members who have been hurt find a way to forgive. Daughters who are disgusted with their mother’s choices begin to understand why, and through their own poor choices, they offer a morsel of mercy.

Mothers who seemed hard, controlling, and fussy finally become real people to their daughters. Their daughters begin to realize the that their mothers have lives, dreams, and quiet heartbreaks no one knows about. Mothers loosen up over time and become somone their daughter confides in.

Again, why?

You can’t make peace with yourself, with who you are, with all that you’ve done that had made you ‘you,” until you can begin to accept your mother, your past. She is your key.

What the daughter does, the mother did.  ~Jewish Proverb

Our mothers, our daughters define us. We are who we are because of them–good or bad. We look into their faces and we see ourselves–past and future.

We forgive, tolerate, and accept things our mothers or daughters have done. We know them, bear their secrets, absorb their transgressions, and even speak our truths into their lives no matter how tough and gritty it is.

Caregiving comes into play in regard to the mother-daughter bond. When our loved ones need us–really need us–we come back. We help out. We lay down our grievances and rally to the cause. But it’s more than that–caregiving gives us a reason to make up, to let go, to “get over it.” As our mothers need us, we return and answer the call.

Whether our relationship is strained or easy, hostile or amiable, we need our mother if only in memory …
to conjugate our history, validate ourfemaleness and guide our way.

~ Victoria Secunda

Something happens when our mothers lives begin to grow smaller either physically, emotionally, or financially–a power shift occurs. We (the daughters) gain strength and power–and this time to “be on top,” allows us to feel less threatened–and when we’re not threatened–we can be generous with our love.

Eventually, the scales balance.

After years of our mother’s having dominance over our lives (the childhood years), we’ve built up resentment, and finally, as time rolls along, we come into our own, we tower above our mothers for a short time, and that isn’t as fun as it sounds. If we’re lucky, and our mothers live a little longer, we become equal bookends, each of us strong in the broken places and worthy of respect.

And then, just when we make peace, our mothers die. It surprises us. It shocks us. This is too soon, we cry.

We realize how ironically close we really were–all along–even when we thought we weren’t. We realize we loved them in a deep-bone way. We lose ourselves in grief. We just found ourselves in and through and mothers, and then they leave us. We feel abandoned, lost, maybe even angry.

Looking back, I realize I’ve lost two mothers four times.

My birth mother had schizophrenia and I was taken from her as an infant when the voices told her to hurt herself and her children. I lost her again when I was adopted at the age of four. I didn’t know it would be forever. I lost her again when I was 23, and found my birth family only for them to tell me that my mother was dead–she had died one year before I found them. I cried that day, that week, that year–I cried for the mother I would never know.

I lost my adoptive mother to Alzheimer’s before death took her. To look into the face of someone you know so well–someone who you’ve screamed at, cried and fought with, only to have a disease eat away at her brain like battery acid–and to know that she doesn’t know you, remember you, you hold no emotion, no connection. You might as well we a cardboard box. It ravages your soul and all you believe.

And then death came. In a way, a welcome relief to the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s. I knew it would never give me my mother back.

Why now? Why do we lose our mothers just at the point when we can sit beside them and feel at ease, a give and take? Just when we can be ourselves in the presence of our most formidable foes, our most dependable ally, we lose them.

I have no answer for this. The only solace I can give you is that my mother’s life is now my example, her stories, her “ways” ripple through my own life. I don’t idolize her or think she was perfect. That would be an insult to such a great woman. I see her as complex and confounding as ever–but that’s what I like about her, about me.

In a bigger sense, I haven’t lost her, or lost me. We sit side-by-side. Equals. I hear her so much more clearly these days. I feel her respect. I listen.

And now, I have three grown daughters. The torch has been passed. They rail against me at times.

I let them. I know the journey they must take to get to their own place of acceptance and strength. I’ll be here. Waiting.

The woman who bore me is no longer alive, but I seem to be her daughter in increasingly profound ways.  ~Johnnetta Betsch Cole

I’m Carol D. O’Dell, the author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir, available on Amazon. I explore the adult daughter-mother relatiohnsip in my book, and I hope you’ll check it out.

 

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Mr. Spock said it r first. We all hope to live long and prosper.

But living long is an art–if you’re going to do it with finesse.

And prospering isn’t all about money–it’s about the wealth we acquire when we live good lives and take care of ourselves.

Great docs such as Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen of the book, Real Age have compiled all the latest health data that if followed, can literally add years to your life. I took this info, along with several known preventative methods to deter Alzheimer’s and compiled it into a list. I love Dr. Oz’s You on a Diet, and You the Owner’s Manual–just enough medicine talk to teach me a few things in a great format I don’t mind picking up again and again.

You might want to post this on your frig.

Don’t feel pressure to do it all–just pick 2-3 things that you can incorporate into your daily/weekly life. That’s enough for now. Later, you can add 2 more.

The Health List: (Ranked in importance to some degree)

  • Embrace a positive attitude. This is number one. Squash those negative thoughts. Redirect them. How? Catch yourself in the act. Turn the negative thought into a positive one and say it out loud. Flood your car and other places where you mind wanders with music, informational CDs, or healthy conversation–continually correct those down/derogatory thoughts until they’re crowded out by good ones.
  • When you can’t, laugh it off. Sometimes life just gets chaotic and absurd. When the crap just seems to pile up, then laugh about it. Ask yourself if this will matter one year, five years from now. Most of the time, it won’t. If it will, then take action and do what you can to fix it–if not–let go of life’s steering wheel and enjoy the ride.
  • Let go of hurts and resentments–most people don’t mean to hurt you, and for those who do, why give them power by dwelling on it?
  • Breathe! When stressed, stop, place your hand on the place on your body where you’re feeling the most tension–head, stomach, and take five slow deep breaths. Count if you need to, if your mind needs something to focus on–30 counts in, 30 counts out–breath in through your nose and really fill up those lungs, and breath out through your mouth and empty everything out in that breath. Do this at least three times a day–stress or not–it’ll change your life. It’s great for stress and anxiety.
  • While we’re on breath, you gotta give up smoking. If you haven’t so far, make an appointment and get into a doctor quick–there’s so many ways they can help you–meds, hypnotism–you’ve simply got to quit. Know that each time you try, you get closer. So don’t give up. I have lots of relatives who tried for years, and you know what? None of them smoke now. Many smoked for 20, 30 years–and now they’re clean. So it can be done!
  • Get enough sleep. I’m talking 8-10 hours. Sleep deprivation will take years off your life,damage your body, and make life miserable. Create a sanctuary in your bedroom–declutter, paint it in a soothing color, get great sheets–look forward to going to bed. Not sleeping enough is responsible for more car accidents than drunk driving and is directly linked to obesity.
  • When you can, nap for 20 minutes. It’s restorative and will aid in your mental sharpness and creativity.
  • Surround yourself with people you love–a spouse, friends, build relationships and community in which to be a part of.
  • Walk 30 minutes a day. Don’t stop. Keep a steady pace. Music helps. It aids in weight loss, stress, diabetes and heart disease prevention.
  • Music is a great mood enhancer. When you’re down, reach for the ipod instead of the pills/booze. It’s known to be effective in dealing with anxiety, depression, and lowers blood pressure.
  • Make love! With yourself and others–being sexual is good for you. (If it’s in a monogamous committed relationship). Create an environment where sex, cuddling and fooling around is easy and relaxing. If not, explore why you’ve shut down in this area–stress? Lack of sleep? Unresolved issues? Take a look.
  • Do some weight bearing exercise 2-3 times a week. Lift weights, work in the yard–move your muscles and stretch those ligaments. It’s even more important as we age.
  • Play! While exercise is important, face it, it’s boring. What sport or activity did you love as a child? I was a bicycler. Now, I bike almost every day. Swim, kayak, install a basketball goal in your driveway–even if you don’t have kids around any more.
  • Stretch–everyone can stretch–any age. 5-10 minutes a day–along with your breath work is something caregivers and their loved ones can do together. Yoga’sgreat too, and there are lots of DVDs and online classes if you can’t get out.
  • If you want to obsess about a body part, then concentrate on your waist size. Waist size reflects mid-section fat–the dangerous kind that’s close to your heart. Men should have a waist of no larger than 36 inches and women, 32 inches. So get out the tape measure and take deep breath…
  • Incorporate being active into your relationships. Meet with a friend for lunch–and then go for thirty minute walk. Sign you and your spouse up for tennis lessons or dance lessons. Shake things up. It’s easy to get sedentary in our relationships and build upon eachother’s bad habits.
  • Get out in nature. Nature’s benefits are endless. We are a part of this planet, and no matter where you live, there’s a dragonfly or cardinal waiting for you. Nature teaches us and heals us in ways we’ve yet to explore or understand. Do you know what prisoners miss the most? The sun–and being outside. Most of us can get up and go outside our front door. Do more than walk to your car.
  • Get your Vitamin D.How? By getting outside–remember I mentioned walking for 30 minutes? Do you know that your eyes and skin absorb just the right amount of Vitamin D in about 10-20 minutes and then it shuts off so you can’t overload? Vitamin D is crucial to your bones and is a real problem for the very young and the elderly–so even if you’re a caregiver–wheel your loved one outside and enjoy the flowers, dragonflies, and walk around the block.
  • Before you head out the door, slather on some sunscreen. No need to inflict damage to your skin, which isn’t pretty in the long run, or put yourself at risk for skin cancer. It’s way too easy to buy a moisturizer that has full spectrum sunblock and slather it on each day.
  • Speak up. When something is bothering you, begin to speak up. Say how you’re feeling. You can do this without blame, but stuffing your feelings is damaging and is known to cause lots of health problems. Speaking up is about taking care of yourself. It’s not always about fixing a problem, but voicing your hurts and concerns is beneficial for everyone. Risk the confrontation. Most people take it better than you think and it can be a great bridge to better communication.
  • Embrace faith. Whatever you believe, to whatever degree–embrace the sense of hope that faith embodies. It’s okay if it’s not the faith of your family or culture, it’s okay if it is–people who have some sense of life beyond, of purpose past self feel more at peace and more connected.
  • Look at your stress. Caregivers and those who are actively caring for others all hours of the day and night can really feel overwhelmed, but what is it that really gets to you? Everyone is different. Stress usually stems from a lack of control. For some, it’s the feeling of being trapped, of feeling like your life is put on hold, or maybe it’s the helplessness of seeing a loved one in pain. Is there one small thing about the stress that you could change? Ask for different pain meds? Try acupuncture? Take an online college class so that you feel like you’re doing something for you? Change doctors if yours won’t listen or communicate. One positive act can have a huge effect. You can’t fix it all, but knowing that you can do one thing can really help combat stress.
  • Learn something new. Learn a language, take a class at the rec center, learn to knit, take a computer course, do a tutorial of photo shop, learn how to make a great tiramasu–use that brain of yours!
  • Play games–in your downtime, reach for the crossword puzzle, chess set, or brain games. It beats re-runs of old tv shows and fires those neurons in your brain.
  • When is the last time you laughed? This is where friends come in handy. If you’re going to watch tv, then opt for funny because it does great things for your body and spirit. Make sure you have at least one “fun” friend who makes you laugh, and brings joy and play into your life.
  • Touch. Be affectionate. Hug, kiss, pet your dog. Touch is deeply important. It’s healing. Get a massage. Hold hands.
  • Practice smiling. If you haven’t smiled in a while, or you can’t remember if you have or haven’t, then start practicing. Smile in the car. Smile on the way to work. Smile in the shower. Smiling goes much deeper than just affecting the muscles in your face. Smiling and touching a part of your body is known as Qi Gong in Chinese medicine. It may sound silly, but you”ll feel better and sometimes we just get out of the practice.
  • Avoid the doctor! Whenever possible (not when you’re really/very sick) don’t reach for the anti-biotics. A cold will run its course. Getting in a medical mindset is unhealthy. Drug companies have corrupted American health care–and a pill isn’t always the answer. For simple things, go to the Internet, a health book and try the natural alternative. Now I’m not talking about cancer, heart attacks, etc.

THE FOOD LIST:

  • Eat well. Food is a celebration of life and culture. Eat what you love. You may think you love Fritos and Ding Dongs, but I bet you love other things too. Make your plate a work of art. Eat on a real plate, sitting down at a nice table. Eat with those you love. Surround yourself with beauty as you eat–a candle or a flower. Think about the food you’re eating. Turn off the tv and enjoy what’s going in your body.
  • Have an eating plan. If you know you’re going to be extremely busy, then take a sec and plan what you’re going to eat. There are almost always decent alternatives. You can eat decently from a quick stop, so no excuses. Stress eating leads to junk food eating. Create a fall-back plan for when life is crazy and incorporate at least a few healthy alternatives. Love salty? Go for salted nuts as opposed to chips. Love sweets? Go for Twizzlers or other candies with no fat–or a bag of grapes. Mindlessly eating? Grab a bag of carrots. Some gum, or popcorn. Know what it is you want–to chew, something creamy and homey–have those comfort foods on hand. They now make a Mac and Cheese with only 2% fat–and it doesn’t taste half bad. 
  • Know your weak spots. I know when I’m overworked and exhausted that I eat crappy. I’m working on a plan–foods that aren’t terrible for me, but I still find comforting in times of stress. I also know that during those mindless eating stress times I need to take a bath and put myself to bed. I’m not craving food as much as I am self-care and rest.
  • Cut way, way back on fried foods. Now I know you love them, but save them for truly special occasions–birthdays, anniversaries. If you need a fix, then consider oven frying your food at home–country fried steak, and fried chicken still taste good from the oven and it really cuts down on the fat.
  • Eat at home. It’s the only way to control your portions and calories–and quality. There are so many hidden variables in eating out it’s hard to know where to start. Make your home a place of serenity and beauty and take pride in the food you fix. It’s a much more satisfying experience. Learn to make one or two new dishes a month–and enjoy the experience.
  • Embrace fruits and veggies. You know you should–start with those you already like. If you grew up on green beans and corn, then start there and always have those on hand. Try a few more–see what you like. There’s a million ways to make a salad so get creative. The darker green the veggie, the better–the brighter the fruit, the better. Color rules!
  • Go green and buy those fruits and veggies from a local stand–you’ll not only help out your community, but you’ll get fresher produce.
  • Look at your palm. That’s the size and thickness a piece of meat needs to be. You only need one of two of these palms a day. Not enough food? Then pile on the veggies! Have a piece of fruit before your meal–or after.
  • Avoid white–white bread, white rice, have small portions of corn and potatoes. Choose grains instead–brown rice, wild rice, all different kinds of bread–seek out a local bakery. Potatoes and corn are good, but know that you don’t need a huge plateful.
  • Avoid the other white stuff–mayo, full calorie dressings, gravies–all should be used sparingly and the low-fat version is a better choice since we tend to over do it in these areas.
  • Dairy is okay for most people–especially women. Americans could eat more yogurt–the yogurt cultures contain acidophilus and is great for balancing our digestive tract.
  • Curb your appetite with a palmful of nuts. Keep lots of nuts on hand (raw is best, but just get used to eating them regularly at first). The best nuts for your brain are walnuts, almonds, and pecans. They’re great in salads too. It’s a good idea to eat a small handful before a meal–they curb your appetite, have a healthy amount of oils, and you’ll be less ravenous at your meal.
  • Know your super foods–not all food is created equal–here’s a list of the best of the best:
    • Beans
    • Blueberries
    • Broccoli
    • Oats
    • Oranges
    • Pumpkin
    • Salmon
    • Soy
    • Spinach
    • Tea (green or black)
    • Tomatoes
    • Turkey
    • Walnuts
    • Yogurt
  • Nix the plastic bottles of water and install a water filtration system on your faucet. Plastic isn’t good for you–fumes and all–and most city’s tap water is just as clean, if not cleaner than the stuff you’re paying for.
  • If you want notch it up, go for organic meats and eggs that haven’t been injected with hormones. It’s more expensive, but realize you need to eat less amounts of meat any way. We don’t need all those hormones and antibiotics.
  • Take a multi-vitamin–while research goes back and forth about supplements, if you’re eating well, you don’t need too much else. If you’;re dealing with a certain condition–UTIs, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, then this is the time to incorate a few more supplements. Some research indicates that Vitamin C and E helps stave off Alzheimer’s. A great source to know what to take for what disease/condition is at Dr. Weil’s site.                                       .
  • Enjoy a glass of wine! Ladies, on a day is enough. Red is better (although I’m a Riesling fan). Beer’s okay too.
  • Give up the Cokes/carbonated drinks. Nothing good is in any of them. Treat yourself to one occasionally–if you really like the way it tastes, but don’t keep them in your house. They actually suck oxygen out of your bones, has been linked to Parkinson’s, and new research says it might actually damage your cells. And have you seen what it does to your car battery? 
  • Have a cuppa coffee! This one made me particularly happy. Studies show that coffee’s good for your heart–and for Alzheimer’s. It opens up the blood vessels.
  • Give up the artificial sweeteners. They’re all scary. Go with steevia. I know, it’s hard for me too.
  • Go with real butter as opposed to the fake stuff–but a little dab’ll do ya.
  • Go with olive oil whenever you can. Other than desserts, you can cook with olive oil–and we already said that cakes and cookies are a splurge item.
  • Fish rules. Try to incorporate 2-3 fish dishes into your weekly diet. Salmon is great choice. So are all the white fishes–this is when white is good. Go local when you can. Broil or pan cooked fish only takes minutes to fix.
  • Desserts such as cakes should go with life’s celebrations. Enjoy them on birthdays,  anniversaries and holidays–as well as break ups and other life tragedies that only a cake can help. Other than that, have your glass of wine, dark chocolate and some cherries–not a bad way to end a day. If you love your icecream, then go with a low-fat frozen yogurt. Experiment and find your favorite kind.
  • One great dessert you can have it dark chocolate. I keep it at all times. Seriously. I have a small bar each day. I like Dove dark chocolates. I need it be a little creamy. Some of the European high cacoa varieties are too bitter to my liking. Four of their little squares makes me very, very happy. I also like Ritter–and they have one with hazelnuts that’s to die for. Dark chocolate has anti-oxidants which lowers blood pressure.
  • Incorporate flax seed or flax seed oil into your diet–a spoon of the oil can be added to soup, rice, or other dishes and isn’t even noticed. This gives the body Omega 3’s which is great for your heart and is also high in fiber.
  • Women and seniors probably need to take a calcium supplement. We just don’t get enough, and we don’t lift enough weights to offset gravity’s pull on the bones and spine.
  • Best spices are cinnamon (regulates blood levels and is good for diabetes), curry and cumin (heart and metabolic effects) and garlic (heart again). In fact, spices are great all the way around.

A Few Last Words:

Trust your body. If you’re craving lemons, then eat lots of lemons. If you’re sleeping ten hours a night, then tuck yourself in early.

Our bodies are incredibly intuitive. It knows what it needs. Also know that it’s about 3-6 months behind, so the stress you’re experiencing now (say, a bum knee or a heal spur) might be because of the stress and strain that was put on it months before–also know that your spirit works the same way.

If you’ve experienced a huge life change, then realize that your body and mind may be reacting to it months later. If you’re weepy, angry, mopey, it may be that your body needs to play catch up. Let it feel what it needs to feel and trust that it won’t last forever.

Get rid of negatives. Negative people and work situations can be difficult, if not downright impossible to overcome. If you’ve tried to remedy the situation–you’ve spoken up, offered solutions, tried to be amenable and it’s still not working–then consider a change. Money isn’t everything, and if your relationship is unhealthy, then choose to be alone and trust that if you ask the universe for something better–and then wait–it will come.

If you’re in a stressful situation–caregiving, the end of life, a messy divorce, recovering from a car accident, then be gentle on yourself. Life ebbs and flows and know that this difficult time will pass.

Sounds like a lot, huh?

Focus on one thing. If you try to be uber-good, it’ll back-fire and you’ll wind up overdosing on Ho-Ho’s in your car. One change is a good change.

If I’ve forgotten something important, then email me and I’ll add it to the list!

According to the death clock, I’m living to 100. Now, I’ve seen what 90-100 looks like for most folks, and I’m on a mission to improve my last decade. I plan on dancing at my great, great granddaughter’s wedding!

Live long–and prosper!

 Carol D. O’Dell

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com 

 

 

 

 

 

Syndicated Blog at www.OpentoHope.com

Kunati Publishers, www.kunati.com/motheringmother-memoir-by-car/ – 95k

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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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Last night, the television show Boston Legal had one profound moment relating to Alzheimer’s.  

The premise is that one of their leading characters, Denny Crane (played by William Shatner) has early Alzheimer’s. He’s a brilliant attorney who has never lost a case–and he’s part owner in firm. The other law partners are hesitant for Denny to continue to litigate. Not only is he forgetful, he sometimes does or says bizarre things. Things Alzheimer’s patients might say or do.

Great scenario because I happen to know a great law professor from Yale who lives in my community who now has Alzheimer’s. You can be homeless and live under a bridge–and have Alzheimer’s, AIDS, or cancer–or you can be the president of the United States.

At one point, Alan, Denny’s best friend is having a conversation with Jerry, another lawyer in the firm, (who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome) about what a phenomenal job Denny did in court. Jerry blurts out, “Too bad Denny’s dying from Alzheimer’s.”

Alan is shocked. Insulted. He retorts:

“Denny’s not dying from Alzheimer’s. He’s living with it.”

There’s a great distinction here.

One of the drawbacks to early diagnosis is giving up too soon.

Early detection should mean that you receive proper medication, spend time with your loved ones, and make plans to live–not die.

In the case of Alzheimer’s, the average patient lives 8-10 years, and even longer depending on the age you contract this disease. Parkinson’s, ALS, MS, and other diseases can even offer a longer lifespan. Coincidentally, the average caregiver spend 4.3 years caregiving–leaving a bit of a discrepancy here.

The message is: don’t give up too soon.

Don’t hear a diagnosis and go home, draw the curtains, curl up in a fetal position and wither away.

As a family member or caregiver, it’s a blow to hear that your loved one has a terminal illness, but you still have to get up and face each day.

Michael J. Fox says that Parkinson’s is “the disease that keeps on taking.” He’s chosen to live with his disease. He’s chosen to do this for the millions who look to him and rely on him to raise money for research, for the difference he’s already made, but I’m sure he does this even more for his wife and his children.

A recent example is Ted Kennedy’s diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor. He had a seizure and went into the hospital just last weekend. Yet today, he and his wife, Vicki went sailing. He loves sailing and the Boston Globe said he “finds renewal on the water.”

Ted Kennedy is actually teaching his family and others how to treat him. The Chicago Tribune wrote, “Kennedy’s cancer is dire, not hopeless.”

It’s proven that prayers and good thoughts can impact people’s lives clear across the country–and we can create the atmosphere and attitude around us by how we handle our own bad news.

Maya Angelou says, “We teach people how to treat us.”

Yes, it’s natural to feel kicked in the gut.

It’s natural to take to the bed, cry, get angry, lash out or pull in. Don’t beat yourself up for going through this very natural stage.

But after that, it’s time to move on.

You (or your loved one) most likely won’t die tomorrow. Or the next day.

So you take your meds, maybe get physical or occupational therapy. Change things around in your home, hire a home health aide, buy a walker or scooter or whatever else you need. Life is different. I don’t doubt that. But life can still be good.

You can still find joy–and purpose.

Sometimes our purpose is nestled in our situation. Sometimes something–or someone arises in our midst and a window opens where a door shut.

Yet, there will come a time–hopefully in the distant future when the tide turns again.

You, or your loved one may die from this disease, I can’t promise you won’t. 

If not, from something else.

We have to eventually accept that as well. Another transition. Another acceptance. Another change.

But until then, live, live, live, live, live.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Check out her book, a day-to-day, intimate and honest look at caregiving…

Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

Family Advisor at www.Caring.com

Syndicated blog at www.OpentoHope.com

www.kunati.com/mothering

 

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If someone microchips their dog we think of them as acting loving and responsible.

Is that a good enough reason to put a microchip in a human? Isn’t that too “big brother-ish?”

We also put dogs to sleep, right? So maybe that’s not the best analogy.

As you can see, microchipping a human is controversial.

Why?

Some would argue it’s an invasion of privacy.

Others would argue it could be used by someone other than a family member or police.

Others say there are health concerns, such as cancer.

We insert pacemakers, steel rods and plates, silicone and collagen into our bodies, surely we can figure out how to make a tiny chip safe (enough) to give us some peace of mind.

What do you think?

You might feel different if you’ve ever lost your mom or dad. If they’ve ever snuck out of the house half dressed or not dressed at all. If they have Alzheimer’s and are not thinking clearly–insist they’re going to catch a taxi–my mother said that constantly even though I’m not sure she had ever ridden in a taxi in her life–and how in the world did she happen to remember that word but not her own daughter’s name?

Many, many, many night, I caught my mother trying to escape. We had several safety measure on the doors, and an alarm system that would beep if any doors or windows were opened, but still, I worried. She insisted she had to go preach, had to go to church, needed to go to the store and mostly….she needed to go home.

I was also worried because there was a river in our back yard and a 17 foot bluff/drop off. That didn’t seem to register to mother who was drawn more to the driveway and the street. We caught her in the bushes–a lot. And I was a vigilant caregiver. She was just slippery. I actually thanked God she had Parkinson’sto slow her down. Terrible thing to be thankful for, but as I see other moms with Alzheimer’s, and knowing my mother’s strength and fiestiness, I was grateful for any deterrent.

Why “chip?”

  • So they won’t get out and get hit by a car.
  • So they wont’ be kidnapped, raped, fall, wander in the woods.
  • So that so much time doesn’t lapse that they miss crucial medications.
  • So that if they take a car, bus, or train, you’ll know and won’t spend precious minutes, hours, or days in absolute panic and terror.

So yes, I would microchip. Give the benefits of the chip outweighs the risks.  I think. 

Let’s not confuse the issue here: most microchips simply hold information so that if/when the person is found, the information can be “read.” Most of these chips are not tracking devices. Technically, they’re called RFID–Radio Frequency Identification Device. 

One of the major controversies has to do with several studies that suggest that these implanted devices could cause subcutanous sarcomas — malignant tumors. This isn’t due to the radio frequency, it’s simply due to something foreign being under the skin (the tumors develop around the chip itself. Opponents argue that of the 10 million chipped pets, this isn’t a major issue, but it is something to think about.

So now, I’m back to wondering, would I?

The chip will only help “mom” out when someone (the police, etc) find her. If she’s stuck out in the woods tangled in briars, it won’t help?

I guess in my situation, I wouldn’t have been overly concerned about the cancer, considering her age and the greater risk of her getting lost–but I’d only do it it kept my mom safe and allowed us to find her quickly. I would want her found minutes, not days later.

One major microchip company that has recently been in the news is Verichip.

The chips about the size of a grain of rice and contains a 16-digit identification number which is scanned at a hospital. Once the number is placed in a database, it can provide crucial medical information.

This chip is now being tested in about 25 Alzheimer’s and elder/ill persons in Palm Beach,  and Del Ray Beach, Florida.

Here are some articles on microchips so you can decide for yourself:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=3536539

http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/elder_tracking/rfid-microchips-implanted-into-alzheimers-patients-294731.php

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1672865,00.html

Memory disorder units use various types of wander protection for their residents. They have to. This is different than microchipping, but eventually, microchipping will be incorporated into this system. If you ever have to place your loved one somewhere due to Alzheimer’s, then you’ll need to know how they safeguard their residents. A building full of Alzheimer’s patients could spell disaster without a decisive protection plan. That’s why these units cost so much. You can expect to pay 4-6,000 dollars a month. (gasp)

One such system is Roam Alert, and here’s a diagram of how it works in a facility. Each resident must wear a non-removable band. While this may cause skin irritation and some patients obssess about it, it’s a necessary component.

 

 

Benefits to the wanderer:

  • Freedom to interact with other residents
  • Freedom to use facility’s resources
  • Safety from wandering into dangerous areas

 

To cognitive residents:

  • Freedom to mingle with all residents
  • Avoid “prison lock-down” image

 

To the facility:

  • first line of defense
  • Insurance coverage
  • Quick response to wandering

I’m not endorsing anything here, I’m just using these companies as examples of what’s out there. Most family caregivers are too busy doing the actual care–driving to the docs, cleaning up, meds, and food prep to have the time or energy to do all this research.

I can’t help but believe that this is all a matter of time until we track and chip our loved one’s who cannot make good judgements. We will have to reconcile our sense of moral obligation in regard to privacy issues with our moral obligation to keep them safe.

Will there be abuses? I’m sure. Just like all technology, it’s amoral and up to the user to be ethical. We can already track people by their cell phones, and as the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients swell, this will not only become big business, it’ll become a national concern.

If not the chip, how do we keep mom and dad (or our husbands and wives, sisters and brothers) safe?

I’m just asking because I truly don’t know the answer.

~Carol D. O’Dell

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

available on Amazon

www.mothering-mother.com

 

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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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Most people would tell you they’d much rather be a caregiver than a care receiver.

And as much as I whine, gripe, complain, and mope about caregiving, I too, wouldn’t volunteer to sign on the care receiving dotted line, and I do know that there will be a day when I will need to relinquish my car keys, ask for assistance in and out of a chair, accept that someone might need to help me change or bathe me or stay up all night at the hospital with me–and that I need to choose now to accept this part of my life with dignity and grace.

Easier said.

As much “air time” as caregivers get for being under stress and juggling all of their responsibilities, the care receiver has little to say.

Why? Mostly because they are the ones who have to deal with the pain, challenges and incapacity brought on by illnesses. They don’t have the energy to hang on the computer because all their energy goes into fighting pain, depression, or it might go to the ever sucking mind meld of Alzheimer’s.  

The few care receivers/partners who manage to blog offer their insights for the rest of us and are amazing individuals who give us to peek into their world and catch a glimpse of what they face–from the pain to the sorrow, to the humor and love and relationships they hold dear.

Some of my favorite blogs are by those who face Parkinson’sor ALS or dementia or cancer and capture their thoughts, fears, moments of tender joy for the rest of us. 

Kate Kelsall’s Shake, Rattle, and Roll is an excellent example of a thoughtful, hope-filled blog about her challenges with Parkinson’s and her extraordinary life.

Most people would rather be a caregiver–even with the nights, weekends, doctor visits, orange vinyl hospital chairs, and back straining duties–they’d still rather be the one to give.

But life keeps on and sooner or later, we will age, our bodies will break down, and we will find ourselves…in need.

So many people don’t want to need anyone any more. They thnk that if they have enough money they won’t be a burden to their family–they’d rather have a stranger bathe them than a daughter. They don’t want to inconvenience anyone, and while I do understand that to some degree, I also want families to know that needing is a good thing. Our babies need us, our children need us, my husband needs my support–wants it yes, but also, he needs me.

Too much needing is not healthy, I know that firsthand but families needing each other isn’t all bad either–and it doesn’t mean you can’t supplement care. Needing someone to be a part of your life is what connects us.

Have you ever met a person so together that they were either intimidating or boring? Everything was perfect and they had no struggles, no hardships, and therefore, you had nothing in common–nothing to work through or talk about?

As we grow older or are faced with an illness, we can’t say to the world, “No thank you, I think I’ll pass on the care you’re offering me.”

I know that as a caregiver to my mother who had Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s that I’ve learned many valuable lessons:

  • Tto be patient, forgiving, to stand up for ourselves and those we love
  • To strive for balance, to say our words of love now
  • To see beauty in the smallest of moments
  • To be astonished at how stubborn, tenacious, and strong I can actually be under extreme pressure. 
  • To see my own weaknesses and things I needed to work on–lots of things to work on.

If we learned have somuch to learn from caregiving, do we not think that care receiving might

teach us a few things as well?

As a care receiver, I become the life lesson for others. I submit to be a part of the bigger picture.

I agree to become the white nouse in the lab of life–here, learn off of me, practice patience on me, try and fail and try again to forgive–on me. I will allow my body, my inadequcies, my vulnerabilities to be used by others to teach strength and gratitude, and I know full well there’s no easy way to learn these things. And I’ll be willing to participate in this grand human experience while I’m fighting pain, facing impending death (or transformation depending on how you look at it) and even the possible void of the forgetting.

I agree. Sign on the dotted line.

Whew! It’s even scary to write those words, to agree to this in theory. Yet so many phenomenal people have had no choice. They relinquish their pride and indepence in order for us to learn to love.

That’s what it really boils down to–that’s the essence.

I will allow my pain and sorrow and illness to teach others how to love.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot left to learn. Learning how to receive is infinately harder to learn than how to give.

 ~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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